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NOVA ScienceNOW profile on Lonnie Thompson - Tropical Glaciologist

NovaNow/WGBH Boston

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.

Video length: 11:47 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 4 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b
Effects of climate change on water cycle and freshwater availability
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7b

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

  • There are links on this web page to other videos for students to explore.
  • Additionally teachers might want to link to the CLEAN collection to find activities on ice cores that this video can be paired with.

About the Science

  • The use of the video should be supported by additional science information.
  • To study past climate, it is important to obtain ice cores from the equatorial regions as soon as possible because warming temperatures are causing the equatorial glaciers to melt away.
  • This is a profile of the tropical glaciologist Lonnie Thompson and his work on ice core analysis.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This material is very interesting and is an excellent presentation of the history of Thompson's work, but it doesn't really present any results of his work.

About the Pedagogy

  • Teachers can pair this with activities on ice cores, such as these CLEAN selected resources: http://cleanet.org/clean/educational_resources/index.html?search_text=ice+core&Search=search
  • By profiling the scientist and how he came to be a scientist, students interested in science can start to see the possibilities for themselves.
  • There is a transcript included, providing an alternate avenue for accessing the material.
  • The scientist career profile provides a good role model for students, particularly for those interested in science.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • There is a short 10-second advertisement in the beginning of the video, which some viewers may find distracting.
  • When playing at full-screen resolution, the video is a little grainy.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 4

MS-PS4.B1:When light shines on an object, it is reflected, absorbed, or transmitted through the object, depending on the object’s material and the frequency (color) of the light.

MS-ESS2.C1:Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

MS-ESS2.C2:The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns.

MS-ESS2.D1:Weather and climate are influenced by interactions involving sunlight, the ocean, the atmosphere, ice, landforms, and living things. These interactions vary with latitude, altitude, and local and regional geography, all of which can affect oceanic and atmospheric flow patterns.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

MS-P3.3:Evaluate the accuracy of various methods for collecting data.

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

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.

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-ESS2.E1:The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations

HS-P3.4:Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.

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