This is a classroom activity about the forcing mechanisms for the most recent cold period: the Little Ice Age (1350-1850). Students receive data about tree ring records, solar activity, and volcanic eruptions during this time period. By comparing and contrasting time intervals when tree growth was at a minimum, solar activity was low, and major volcanic eruptions occurred, they draw conclusions about possible natural causes of climate change and identify factors that may indicate climate change.

This NBC Learn video features climate scientists doing their research on Mt. Kilimanjaro to study the climate of the past. The scientists put the recently observed changes on the glacier into perspective by comparing past climate fluctuations, stressing that the current observed rate of change is unprecedented.
Note: you will need to scroll down the Changing Planet video page to get to this video.

This interactive visualization provides a clear, well-documented snapshot of current and projected values of several climate variables for local areas in California. The climate variables include observed and projected temperatures, projected snowpack, areas vulnerable to flooding due to sea level rise, and projected increase in wildfires. The projected values come from expert sources and well-established climate models.

This NOAA visualization on YouTube shows the seasonal variations in sea surface temperatures and ice cover from 1985 to 2007. The visualization is based on data collected by NOAA polar-orbiting satellites. El NiÃo and La NiÃa are easily identified, as are the trends in decreasing polar sea ice.

In this activity, students explore past examples of climate variability in three locations: the Peruvian and Bolivian Andes, Central America, and coastal Greenland, and consider differences between climate variability and climate change.

In this video, a team of paleontologists, paleobotanists, soil scientists, and other researchers take to the field in Wyoming's Bighorn Basin to document how the climate, plants, and animals there changed during the Paleocene- Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM). During this time a sudden, enormous influx of carbon flooded the ocean and atmosphere for reasons that are still unclear to scientists. The PETM is used as an analog to the current warming. The scientists' research may help inform our understanding of current increases in carbon in the atmosphere and ocean and the resulting impact on ecosystems.

This video describes what black carbon is, where is comes from, and how it contributes to sea ice melt and global warming.

In this activity, students are introduced to tree rings by examining a cross section of a tree, also known as a 'tree cookie.' They discover how tree age can be determined by studying the rings and how ring thickness can be used to deduce times of optimal growing conditions. Next, they investigate simulated tree rings applying the scientific method to explore how climatic conditions varied over time.

Two graphs from the NASA Climate website illustrate the change in global surface temperature relative to 1951-1980 average temperatures. The NASA plot is annotated with temperature-impacting historic events, which nicely connect an otherwise challenging graphic to real-world events.

This long classroom activity introduces students to a climate modeling software. Students visualize how temperature and snow coverage might change over the next 100 years. They run a 'climate simulation' to establish a baseline for comparison, do a 'experimental' simulation and compare the results. Students will then choose a region of their own interest to explore and compare the results with those documented in the IPCC impact reports. Students will gain a greater understanding and appreciation of the process and power of climate modeling.

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