Standard Deviation of Temperature Data

The Goddard Institute for Space Studies, a branch of NASA, gathers monthly temperatures from US cities in different latitudes. The data is from 1880 to the present.  

In this activity, you will be finding the means of different temperature data sets in 5 latitude ranges divided up by increments of five degrees.  You will calculate the standard deviation in each range to determine how much the temperature deviates from the mean throughout the latitude ranges. Temperatures are reported in degrees Fahrenheit, Celsius, and Kelvin for each city.

Using the data set in Excel, determine the standard deviation and mean of the temperature in Fahrenheit for cities in the following latitude ranges: 25-30, 31-35, 36-40, 41-45, and 46-50.  Then, find the standard deviation and mean of the temperatures in Celsius and Kelvin in each latitude range.

Compare the means measured in Celsius between the different latitude ranges. 

1. Which latitude range is warmest?
2. Which latitude range is coldest?
3. Which latitude range has the largest variation in data?
4. Which latitude range has the smallest variation in the data?

Compare the standard deviations of the data in Kelvin, in Fahrenheit, and in Celsius. 
Does changing the temperature scale affect the standard deviation?
6. What impact does the size of the numbers in the data set have on the standard deviation? 
7. What does this mean about the standard deviation of each of the data sets? 

Copyright © 2011 Central Virginia Governor's School for Science and Technology, Lynchburg, VA