Lesson Plan: Analyzing Trends and Calculating Uncertainty using Hurricane Data Records

As an undergraduate Statistics teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching statistical analysis topics such as Trends, Uncertainty, Confidence interval, and Student’s t-distribution.

As an undergraduate Geography or Earth Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to help you in teaching disasters, hurricanes, the possible impact of climate change on hurricanes, and the analysis of trends in hurricane intensity.

This lesson plan allows your students to perform statistical analysis and interpretation of data (specifically, analyzing trends and determining uncertainty) by using hurricane data records. In the activity, students will explore possible trends in hurricane intensity and number over the past 40 years, and will investigate a possible link between climate change and hurricane strength.

Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Statistics, Geography, or Earth Sciences.



Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:

  •  1.  Is there an increase in the frequency of major hurricanes over the past few decades?
  •  2.  Calculate the trend and determine the confidence interval for the frequency of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean from past records.
  •  3.  Calculate the trend and evaluate the uncertainty for the intensity of hurricanes.
  •  4.  What are the possible effects of climate change on the intensity and number of tropical cyclones/hurricanes?

About Lesson Plan

Grade Level Undergraduate
Discipline Statistics, Geography, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline • Statistics: Inferential Statistics, Trend Analysis, Uncertainty, Confidence Interval, Student’s t-Distribution

• Geography, Earth Sciences : Disasters, Hazards, Hurricanes, Storms, Oceanography, Trends in Hurricane Intensity

Climate Topic Disasters and Hazards
Location Global (data in the activity is for the Atlantic Ocean)
Languages English
Access Online, Offline
Approximate Time Required 100 min


Micro-lecture (video)
(~9 min)
A micro-lecture (video) that introduces the topic of confidence interval.
Micro-lecture (video) (~8 min) A micro-lecture (video) that introduces the topic of t-distribution.
Classroom/ Laboratory activity (~60  min) A classroom/laboratory activity to calculate trends
and uncertainties in hurricane intensity by analyzing
hurricane data records over 40 years.
Reading (~10 min) A reading on changes in hurricane activity.
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
1.Introduce the topic through a micro-lecture (video)
2. Conduct a classroom/laboratory activity
  • • Next, explore the topics in more detail through a hands-on classroom/laboratory activity, “Is There a Trend in Hurricane Intensity?”  
  • • This activity will help your students determine trends, uncertainties, and confidence intervals by analyzing actual hurricane data records for the Atlantic Ocean over a period of 40 years. They will also discuss the potential link between climate change and hurricane intensity.
  • • Download the documents (teaching material and tips) for the activity from https://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/hurricanes/activities/28276.html
  • •  Conduct the activities and assignments described in the teaching material (analysis and interpretation of actual data by using MS Excel).
3. Discuss using a reading