This NASA animation presents the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 400,000 years, last 1000 years and last 25 years at different time scales. The data come from the Lake Vostok ice cores (400,000 BC to about 4000 BC), Law Dome ice cores (1010 AD to 1975 AD) and Mauna Loa observations (1980 to 2005).
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.
In this activity, students reconstruct past climates using lake varves as a proxy to interpret long-term climate patterns. Students use data from sediment cores to understand annual sediment deposition and how it relates to weather and climate patterns.
This video segment describes climate data collection from Greenland ice cores that indicate Earth's climate can change abruptly over a single decade rather than over thousands of years. The narrator describes how Earth has undergone dramatic climate shifts in relatively short spans of time prior to 8000 years ago. The video and accompanying essay provide explanations of the differences between weather and climate and how the climate itself had been unstable in the past, with wide variations in temperature occurring over decadal timescales.
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.
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 with a lab report instructs students to solve and plot 160,000 years' worth of ice core data from the Vostok ice core using Excel or similar spreadsheets to analyze data. Students learn about ice cores and what they can tell us about past atmospheric conditions and the past atmospheric concentrations of CO2 and CH4.
This video profiles glaciologist Lonnie Thompson and his research into tropical mountain glaciers as a way to understand climate history. Beginning in the 1970s, Thompson recognized that tropical ice cores contain information relating to tropical climate phenomena, including El NiÃo events and monsoons. These phenomena are not archived in ice from polar regions. Thompson explains that his archive of ice cores is full of clues that, taken together with records collected from around the world, can help scientists create a timeline that tells Earth's climate story.
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.