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.
This three-panel figure is an infographic showing how carbon and oxygen isotope ratios, temperature, and carbonate sediments have changed during the Palaeocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum. The figure caption provides sources to scientific articles from which this data was derived. A graphic visualization from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change shows the rapid decrease in carbon isotope ratios that is indicative of a large increase in the atmospheric greenhouse gases CO2 and CH4, which was coincident with approximately 5C of global warming.
This activity uses geophysical and geochemical data to determine climate in Central America during the recent past and to explore the link between climate (wet periods and drought) and population growth/demise among the Maya. Students use ocean drilling data to interpret climate and to consider the influence of climate on the Mayan civilization.
In this activity, students examine pictures of pollen grains representing several species that show the structural differences that scientists use for identification. Students analyze model soil samples with material mixed in to represent pollen grains. They then determine the type and amount of 'pollen' in the samples and, using information provided to them, determine the type of vegetation and age of their samples. Finally, they make some conclusions about the likely climate at the time the pollen was shed.
In this video, students see how data from the ice core record is used to help scientists predict the future of our climate. Video features ice cores extracted from the WAIS Divide, a research station on the West Antarctic Ice Sheet.
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.
This interactive visualization describes how climatologists obtain and interpret evidence from the Greenland Ice Sheet in an effort to piece together a picture of Earth's distant climate history. Resource describes how glaciers form and how they can be used to collect ancient atmospheric data. The issues analyzed in the data collection are particularly good in showing how science is done in the field.
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 activity is a research project in which students explore and synthesize key paleoceanographic evidence for the Paleocene-Eocene Thermal Maximum (PETM) as found in marine sediment cores collected and analyzed during Ocean Drilling Program Leg 208 (Walvis Ridge).