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NOVA: Climate Change
http://www.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/ess05.sci.ess.watcyc.climatechange/

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

A range of natural records shows that the last 10,000 years have been an unusually stable period in Earth’s climate history. Modern human societies developed during this time. The agricultural, economic, and transportation systems we rely upon are vulnerable if the climate changes significantly.
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3d
Scientific observations indicate that global climate has changed in the past, is changing now, and will change in the future. The magnitude and direction of this change is not the same at all locations on Earth.
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Based on evidence from tree rings, other natural records, and scientific observations made around the world, Earth’s average temperature is now warmer than it has been for at least the past 1,300 years. Average temperatures have increased markedly in the past 50 years, especially in the North Polar Region.
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Environmental observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system. From the bottom of the ocean to the surface of the Sun, instruments on weather stations, buoys, satellites, and other platforms collect climate data. To learn about past climates, scientists use natural records, such as tree rings, ice cores, and sedimentary layers. Historical observations, such as native knowledge and personal journals, also document past climate change.
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

Benchmarks for Science Literacy
Learn more about the Benchmarks

Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
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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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