From Celsius to Chaos to Cyclones: Using Temperature-Conversion Equations to Introduce Advanced Mathematical Concepts in Earth Science Courses

Author: Knox, J.A.

Source: Mathematical Geology, Volume 32, Number 2, February 2000 , pp. 203-215(13)

Publisher: Springer

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Abstract:

The Fahrenheit-to-Celsius temperature-conversion equation is a basic component of many introductory earth science courses. Despite its simplicity, it presents a challenge to students and instructors alike because residents of the United States are unfamiliar with the Celsius scale. By solving for the point at which these two temperature scales are equal, it is possible to use the equations for temperature conversion as a springboard to more advanced topics. It is demonstrated that temperature-conversion equations and chaotic equations can be solved using identical numerical and graphical techniques. As a result, the fundamental concepts of chaos theory and numerical methods can be introduced to students in the context of the simplest equations in the earth sciences. These solution methods are applied to the quantitative theory of the extratropical cyclone as an example of the utility and broad scope of this educational approach.

Keywords: Fahrenheit-to-Celsius formula; graphical solution; iterative solution; logistic map; low-pressure system

Document Type: Regular Paper

Affiliations: Department of Geography and Meteorology, Valparaiso University, Mueller Hall, Valparaiso, Indiana 46383; John.Knox@valpo.edu

Publication date: February 1, 2000

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