This teaching activity is an introduction to how ice cores from the cryosphere are used as indicators and record-keepers of climate change as well as how climate change will affect the cryosphere.

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.

For this lesson, the guiding Concept Question is: What is climate change and how does climate relate to greenhouse gas concentrations over time? This activity is the second lesson in a nine-lesson module 'Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change' produced by the International Year of Chemistry project (2011).

In this activity, students examine images of alpine glaciers to develop an understanding of how glaciers respond to climate change. They record, discuss, and interpret their observations. They consider explanations for changes in the size and position of glaciers from around the world. They develop an understanding that the melting (retreat) of glaciers is occurring simultaneously on different continents around the world, and, thus, they represent evidence of global climate change.

In this activity, students are guided through graphs of surface air temperature anomaly data and Vostok ice core data to illustrate how scientists use these data to develop the basis for modeling how climate is likely to change in the future.