This unit allows students to investigate past changes in Earth's climate. Students first explore relationships in climate data such as temperature, solar radiation, carbon dioxide, and biodiversity. They then investigate solar radiation in more depth to learn about changes over time such as seasonal shifts. Students then learn about mechanisms for exploring past changes in Earth's climate such as ice cores, tree rings, fossil records, etc. Finally, students tie all these together by considering the feedbacks throughout the Earth system and reviewing an article on a past mass extinction event.

This 10 minute video builds connections between topics that are important in climate science such as: the impact of variations in Earth's orbit and wobble on it's axis on climate; how the cores being sampled fit into the bigger climate picture; connecting greenhouse gases to melting ice and sea level changes; the sensitivity of the ice melt / sea level rise relationship; and computer model simulations showing connections between ice sheets and sea level.
The companion website provides resources, an extensive list of activities, teacher guides, posters, and more.

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.

Climate has varied in the past, but today's climate change rate is much more drastic due to human activity. Students explore past climate cycle graphs and compare the cycles with the current rate of change.

This video segment, from the 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' featuring climate expert Richard Alley, shows how ice cores stored at the National Ice Core Lab provide evidence that ancient ice contains records of Earth's past climate - specifically carbon dioxide and temperature.

This activity allows students to make El Nino in a container, but it might work better as a teacher demonstration. The introduction and information provided describe El Nino, its processes and its effects on weather elsewhere in the world.

This interactive module allows students and educators to build models that explain how the Earth system works. The Click and Learn application can be used to show how Earth is affected by human activities and natural phenomena.

An engaging and informational video describing the history of our knowledge about climate change.

This short video, adapted from NOVA, explains how Earth's position relative to the Sun might be responsible for the dramatic shift in the climate of what is now the Saharan nation of Djibouti.

In this activity, students use authentic Arctic climate data to unravel some causes and effects related to the seasonal melting of the snowpack and to further understand albedo.