In this activity, students work in groups, plotting carbon dioxide concentrations over time on overheads and estimating the rate of change over five years. Stacked together, the overheads for the whole class show an increase on carbon dioxide over five years and annual variation driven by photosynthesis. This exercise enables students to practice basic quantitative skills and understand how important sampling intervals can be when studying changes over time. A goal is to see how small sample size may give incomplete picture of data.
Students examine data from Mauna Loa to learn about CO2 in the atmosphere. The students also examine how atmospheric CO2 changes through the seasonal cycle, by location on Earth, and over about 40 years and more specifically over 15 years. Students graph data in both the Northern and Southern Hemisphere and draw conclusions about hemispherical differences in CO2 release and uptake.