Scales in the climate system

To better understand climate change, research that integrates social and natural science perspectives is vital. After all, climate change affects nature and society alike. Young academics need to be equipped to pursue this interdisciplinary research in the course of their education. By pursuing an interdisciplinary approach to the term “scale,” the teaching project “Scales in the Climate System” aims to do just this.

Scales describe how small or large, how short or long term something varies, for example events in the climate system like an ocean current or a forest fire, as well as their effects on the communities they impact. Yet the respective concepts of scale used by different disciplines aren’t mutually compatible, making it impossible to combine them to arrive at a comprehensive view of the climate system.

In the course of the educational project “Scales in the Climate System,” a group of CliSAP researchers from the fields of oceanography, sociology, mathematics, biology, meteorology, geography, soil science, communication sciences and geology worked together with Master’s students from CliSAP’s graduate school SICSS to develop a definition of “Scales in the Climate System.” The scales definition can be applied both in the natural sciences and social sciences.

In its third year, the teaching project was funded by the 'Lehrlabor' of the Universitätskolleg of the Universität Hamburg with funds from the Federal Ministry of Education and Research (funding code 01PL17033).

Teaching Script and interactive Diagram Generator

After a total of three years, the eScript developed and used during the course is now freely available online. In the English-language eScript, information about scales, common knowledge, teaching materials and our "example teaching script" from 2017 are presented in two paths. The separation of the two paths enables potential teachers to understand content and methodological concepts as well as a purely content-related consideration of the topic without a teaching ambition.

The eScript also offers a database of climate-relevant phenomena identified together with the students and described using the common scale definition and the "Diagram Generator", a visualization tool developed especially for this course together with the Institute for Digital Learning GbR. This generator helps to show different scales of concrete phenomena in the climate system - such as heat waves, forest fires and social conflicts that result from them - in scale diagrams. Lecturers and students have continuously examined, supplemented, adapted and further developed it together.

the eScript and the Diagram Generator can be used online to playfully approach scale diagrams and visualize interdisciplinary questions.

The course was taught jointly by the following lecturers.