This is the first of nine lessons in the "Visualizing and Understanding the Science of Climate Change" website. This lesson is an introduction to Earth's climate and covers key principles regarding Earth's unique climate, atmosphere, and regional and temporal climate differences.

This activity focuses on reconstructing the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) as an example of a relatively abrupt global warming period. Students access Integrated Ocean Drilling Program (IODP) sediment core data with Virtual Ocean software in order to display relevant marine sediments and their biostratigraphy.

Key figure from the 2007 Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report that shows changes in global average surface temperature, global average sea level, and Northern Hemisphere snow cover from as far back as 1850.

In this video, students learn that scientific evidence strongly suggests that different regions on Earth do not respond equally to increased temperatures. Ice-covered regions appear to be particularly sensitive to even small changes in global temperature. This video segment adapted from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center details how global warming may already be responsible for a significant reduction in glacial ice, which may in turn have significant consequences for the planet.

This activity engages learners in examining data pertaining to the disappearing glaciers in Glacier National Park. After calculating percentage change of the number of glaciers from 1850 (150) to 1968 (50) and 2009 (26), students move on to the main glacier-monitoring content of the module--area vs. time data for the Grinnell Glacier, one of 26 glaciers that remain in the park. Using a second-order polynomial (quadratic function) fitted to the data, they extrapolate to estimate when there will be no Grinnell Glacier remaining (illustrating the relevance of the question mark in the title of the module).

This video describes why tropical ice cores are important and provide different information than polar ice cores, why getting them now is important (they are disappearing), and how scientists get them. The work of glaciologist Lonnie Thompson is featured, with a focus on his work collecting cores of ice from high mountain glaciers that contain significant data about past climate change.

This activity introduces students to stratigraphic correlation and the dating of geologic materials, using coastal sediment cores that preserve a record of past hurricane activity.

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. Students learn through a guided web exercise how scientists analyze ice cores to learn about past climate conditions, how melting sea and land ice will contribute to sea level rise, and what areas of the world would be at risk if Antarctic and/or Greenland ice sheets were to melt away.

A collection of repeat photography of glaciers from the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). The photos are taken years apart at or near the same location, illustrating how dramatically glacier positions can change even over a relatively short period in geological time: 60 to 100 years. Background essay and discussion questions are included.

This video features research conducted at University of Colorado's Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research, which studies isotopes of hydrogen trapped in ice cores to understand climate changes in the past.