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CO2 and the Atmosphere

Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions, Earth: The Operators' Manual

This video is narrated by climate scientist Richard Alley. It examines studies US Air Force conducted over 50 years ago on the warming effects of CO2 in the atmosphere and how that could impact missile warfare. The video then focuses on the Franz Josef glacier in New Zealand; the glacier is used to demonstrate glaciers formation, depth of snow fall in the past, and understand atmospheric gases and composition during the last Ice Age. Supplemental resources are available through the website.

Video length: 9:04 min.

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Climate Literacy
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Climate is complex
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Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
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Evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change
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Natural processes of CO2 removal from atmosphere is slow; Long residence time of some GHG
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Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
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Climate change has consequences
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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

  • This video helps link past climates and the carbon cycle.
  • Teacher may wish to make a study guide/question sheet for the video to keep students engaged in the video throughout the nine minutes.

About the Science

  • Linking military research on the heat-trapping qualities of carbon dioxide from over 50 years ago demonstrates the multiple lines of evidence for the role of CO2 in Earth's climate system.
  • Animations are used to describe Milankovitch cycles and the ice ages. Finally, the video shows how glaciers act as bulldozers to create moraines that indicate past termini and animations of glacier retreat that result in icebergs, lake formation, etc.
  • The video demonstrates, through the history of the Franz Josef Glacier in New Zealand, that cyclic orbital variations or other "natural variability" alone cannot account for warming in recent decades.
  • The video shows how glaciers can be used to study past climate, allowing scientists to study past atmospheric composition, precipitation amounts, and temperatures.
  • Comment from Expert Scientist: This is a nice video which shows how scientists are using glaciers and ancient air trapped in those glaciers to understand the Earth's climate history. The narration is easy to follow and is well supported by the images.

About the Pedagogy

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent time-lapse photography segments on retreating glaciers.
  • Closed captioned text provided.

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