This series of activities is designed to introduce students to the role of sediments and sedimentary rocks in the global carbon cycle. Students learn how stable carbon isotopes can be used to reconstruct ancient sedimentary environments. Students will make some simple calculations, formulate hypotheses, and think about the implications of their results. The activity includes an optional demonstration of the density separation of a sediment sample into a light, organic fraction and a heavier, mineral fraction.
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.
This resource is a website that is a self-contained, multi-part introduction to how climate models work. The materials include videos and animations about understanding, constructing and applying climate models.
This activity in a case study format explores ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet by way of outlet glaciers that flow into the ocean. Students do basic calculations and learn about data trends, rates of change, uncertainty, and predictions.
This video provides an overview of how computer models work. It explains the process of data assimilation, which is necessary to ensure that models are tied to reality. The video includes a discussion of weather models using the Goddard Earth Observing System (GEOS-5) model and climate models using the MERRA (Modern Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications) technique.
In this JAVA-based interactive modeling activity, students are introduced to the concepts of mass balance, flow rates, and equilibrium using a simple water bucket model. Students can vary flow rate into the bucket, initial water level in the bucket, and residence time of water in the bucket. After running the model, the bucket's water level as a function of time is presented graphically and in tabular form.
In this activity, students will use oxygen isotope values of two species of modern coral to reconstruct ambient water temperature over a four-year period. They use Microsoft Excel, or similar application, to create a spreadsheet of temperature values calculated from the isotope values of the corals by means of an algebraic equation. Students then use correlation and regression techniques to determine whether isotope records can be considered to be good proxies for records of past temperatures.