Date of Graduation


Document Type


Degree Type



Eberly College of Arts and Sciences


Geology and Geography

Committee Chair

Eungul Lee

Committee Co-Chair

Jamie Shinn

Committee Member

Jamie Shinn

Committee Member

Jamison Conley


Literacy is an important facet of understanding how undergraduate college students comprehend climate science. This research, conducted at West Virginia University, examines the usability of climate data in three commonly used climate programs to reduce the prominent knowledge gap in climate science literacy about college students.

The objective of this research is to investigate the knowledge gap in climate science literacy by conducting focus group surveys to examine the usability of programs that use climate datasets. The three programs used in this research were the NOAA online tool, NASA’s Panoply data viewer, and GrADS programmable tool. The NOAA tool is based online with built in datasets. Panoply and GrADS are software programs that require external datasets. Each program was tested for usability. This research employed a mixed methods explanatory design to address research questions. To evaluate programs’ usability, the data from face-to-face interview and paper-based survey were quantitatively analyzed. To evaluate attitude toward three climate programs, the data from semi-structured interviews were qualitatively analyzed. My initial expectation was that participants would have difficulty with some of the programs used by climate scientists, and this would negatively impact their attitude towards the programs after attempting to use them. Identifying these difficulties would provide a possible way to address climate science literacy for undergraduate college students. The research encountered a major limitation of volunteer recruitment for participation in both surveys and interviews. As an artifact of this limitation, the quantitative and qualitative analysis contained a small sample size of eight participants.

The results of the quantitative and qualitative analysis revealed that participants found NOAA and Panoply relatively easier to work with than GrADS programmable tool, which was found to be the most challenging program to use by participants. Participants chose the NOAA online tool as having the highest usability among the three programs. Although the NOAA online tool was determined to be the easiest to use, qualitative results revealed Panoply data viewer was the most preferred program due to a better map output. The overall attitudes towards each program were: NOAA is easy to use, Panoply is somewhat easy to use, and is preferred, and GrADS is challenging to use and requires training to use successfully.

This assessment of the usability of these three commonly used climate programs in teaching and research of climatology can aid in the advancement of climate science literacy. Panoply should be used as an introductory program to give students a good representation of climate programs. Results indicate that when students find the climate programs accessible they pay more attention in climate data analysis. Panoply can capture attention by creating aesthetically pleasing maps. The NOAA online tool, which had the highest usability among all the three programs, should be used as an introductory teaching tool for climate science. GrADS programmable tool can be used as an advanced statistical climate-based program. These recommendations support the advancement of climate science literacy, and address misconceptions and mistrust of climate science by providing students with a way to do analysis for themselves.

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