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NOVA: Climate Change

WGBH Teachers Domain

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.

Video length: 5:49 min.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Holocene is unusually stable – human infrastructure vulnerable to change
About Teaching Principle 3
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Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
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Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

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

  • The video would be a great conversation starter or could be used before or after conducting ice core activities.
  • The discussion questions could be used as a starting point for discussion.
  • The fact that climate has changed in the past and will change abruptly in the future holds existential challenges ("why bother reducing carbon emissions if climate may change suddenly anyhow?") for educators. Focusing on adaptation as well as mitigation may help in framing this challenging topic.

About the Science

  • The dynamics of abrupt climate change are the primary focus of the video; once boundary conditions and thresholds are reached, the climate system can shift quickly and significantly.
  • Video explains how ice core analyses are conducted and how rates of climate change are measured.
  • Evidence from ice core data indicates that climate changes in the past can occur suddenly; therefore, there is also the potential for abrupt climate change in the future.
  • High-quality imagery.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This material first elaborate a key science activity in the history of climate science and then provides evidence obtained from this science activity to reveal the core information of this material, the abrupt climate change noted from the greenland ice cores. It effectively outlines the abrupt changes to the Greenland Ice and human involvement in said changes.

About the Pedagogy

  • Language and graphics are very accessible.
  • Background essay discussion questions and standard alignment make video very usable.
  • Compelling science story with a mystery: how fast can climate patterns shift?

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent quality; downloadable or can be viewed online.
  • Closed captioned.

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

NOAA Paleo Perspective on Abrupt Climate Change: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/abrupt/index.html

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