This animated visualization represents a time history of atmospheric carbon dioxide in parts per million (ppm) from 1979 to 2011, and then back in time to 800,000 years before the present.

Students consider why the observed atmospheric CO2 increase rate is only ~60% of the CO2 loading rate due to fossil fuel combustion. They develop a box-model to simulate the atmospheric CO2 increase during the industrial era and compare it to the historic observations of atmospheric CO2 concentrations. The model is then used to forecast future concentrations of atmospheric CO2 during the next century.

Developed for Alaska Native students, this activity can be customized for other regions. Students interview elders or other long-term residents of the community to document their knowledge of local changes to the landscape and climate. Based on the information and photos they acquired from the interview, students return to photo locations to observe and record changes. Finally, they develop ideas about potential impacts of a warming climate to the ecosystem that surrounds them.

In this activity, students explore the way that human activities have changed the way that carbon is distributed in Earth's atmosphere, lithosphere, biosphere and hydrosphere.