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Last Glacial Maximum

Kristine DeLong, Louisiana State University , SERC On The Cutting Edge Collection

In this activity for undergraduates, students explore the CLIMAP (Climate: Long-Range Investigation, Mapping and Prediction) model results for differences between the modern and the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM) and discover the how climate and vegetation may have changed in different regions of the Earth based on scientific data.

Activity takes two class periods. Computers with Internet access required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 6 Cross Cutting Concepts, 8 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate is complex
About Teaching Climate Literacy
Other materials addressing Climate is complex
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Observations, experiments, and theory are used to construct and refine computer models
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5c

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
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G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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C) Collecting information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:E) Organizing information
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E) Organizing information.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:F) Working with models and simulations
Other materials addressing:
F) Working with models and simulations.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
Other materials addressing:
A) Processes that shape the Earth.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Lesson should start with an introduction to the model that was used in the CLIMAP study.

About the Science

  • Engages learners in critical scientific thought by discussing the assumptions made in the CLIMAP study in 1976 and 1984 compared to what we know now about climate change since the Last Glacial Maximum (LGM).
  • Model output data is somewhat dated, but because it is focused on paleoclimatic data it still provides valid information about the climatic conditions during the last glacial maximum.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The activity uses a widely-accessible and heavily cited model of climate conditions for the Last Glacial Maximum and the present. The CLIMAP model can be viewed on a variety of scales (global to sub-regional) and considers a great variety of paleoclimate data types. The assumptions used in developing the model are clear in the two papers referenced in this activity, and it is especially useful that students are required to read the papers and explicitly identify the assumptions. The "extra activities" are good at addressing the one, minor scientific concern that the CLIMAP reconstruction is out of date. Indeed, a lot of new paleoclimate data have become available since 1984. It allows students to see the progression of science over periods of years (CLIMAP to COHMAP) and decades (CLIMAP to MARGO), which is absolutely important.

About the Pedagogy

  • Skimming scientific papers, graphing data on maps and interpretation of maps/data engages students of different learning styles.
  • Group work or jigsaw approach will be very effective.
  • PowerPoint and student handout are provided. Follow-up questions are suggested.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Well-designed and relevant materials available. Only background reading is not provided digitally.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ESS2-4: Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-ESS2.A3:The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun’s energy output or Earth’s orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities. These changes can occur on a variety of time scales from sudden (e.g., volcanic ash clouds) to intermediate (ice ages) to very long-term tectonic cycles.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 6

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.4:Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

HS-C3.2: Some systems can only be studied indirectly as they are too small, too large, too fast, or too slow to observe directly.

HS-C4.4:Models can be used to predict the behavior of a system, but these predictions have limited precision and reliability due to the assumptions and approximations inherent in models.

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 8

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.6:Ask questions that can be investigated within the scope of the school laboratory, research facilities, or field (e.g., outdoor environment) with available resources and, when appropriate, frame a hypothesis based on a model or theory.

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.

HS-P3.1:Plan an investigation or test a design individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence as part of building and revising models, supporting explanations for phenomena, or testing solutions to problems. Consider possible confounding variables or effects and evaluate the investigation’s design to ensure variables are controlled.

HS-P4.3:Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error, sample selection) when analyzing and interpreting data

HS-P5.1:Create and/or revise a computational model or simulation of a phenomenon, designed device, process, or system.

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

HS-P7.5:Make and defend a claim based on evidence about the natural world or the effectiveness of a design solution that reflects scientific knowledge and student-generated evidence.

HS-P8.5:Communicate scientific and/or technical information or ideas (e.g. about phenomena and/or the process of development and the design and performance of a proposed process or system) in multiple formats (i.e., orally, graphically, textually, mathematically).

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