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.