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CO2 in the Ice Core Record

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

This video segment, from the 'Earth: The Operators' Manual' featuring climate expert Richard Alley, shows how ice cores stored at the National Ice Core Lab provide evidence that ancient ice contains records of Earth's past climate - specifically carbon dioxide and temperature.

Video length: 3:01 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept
High School: 6 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 1 Cross Cutting Concept

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Milankovitch/orbital cycle
About Teaching Principle 1
Other materials addressing 1d
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
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

About the Science

  • Studying ice cores at the National Ice Core Lab demonstrates how ancient ice contains records of Earth's past climate.
  • Ice core analysis has indicated that levels of carbon dioxide have risen and fallen over the past 400,000 years. Today CO2 levels are rising 2 parts per million (ppm) per year, more than 100 ppm above pre-industrial levels.
  • The congruency between temperature and CO2 levels over the past 400,000 years is illustrated and discussed.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
  • The material is presented by a noted expert in the field, Richard Alley.
  • Very strong scientifically but without references for the records shown.

About the Pedagogy

  • An annotated script, learning objectives, vocabulary, and teacher tips are provided.
  • Students will understand that ice cores contain climate indicators, examine the historical relationship between temperature and CO2 levels, understand that climate patterns cycle naturally, and will learn that current CO2 levels far exceed any in recorded human history.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • There are captions along the bottom of the screen, which help in following the storyline.

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

Earth: The Operators' Manual: http://earththeoperatorsmanual.com

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-ESS2.A1:All Earth processes are the result of energy flowing and matter cycling within and among the planet’s systems. This energy is derived from the sun and Earth’s hot interior. The energy that flows and matter that cycles produce chemical and physical changes in Earth’s materials and living organisms.

MS-ESS2.A2:The planet’s systems interact over scales that range from microscopic to global in size, and they operate over fractions of a second to billions of years. These interactions have shaped Earth’s history and will determine its future.

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1


MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 6

HS-ESS1.B2:Cyclical changes in the shape of Earth’s orbit around the sun, together with changes in the tilt of the planet’s axis of rotation, both occurring over hundreds of thousands of years, have altered the intensity and distribution of sunlight falling on the earth. These phenomena cause a cycle of ice ages and other gradual climate changes.

HS-ESS2.A1:Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

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.D2:Gradual atmospheric changes were due to plants and other organisms that captured carbon dioxide and released oxygen.

HS-ESS2.D3:Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1


HS-C1.1:Different patterns may be observed at each of the scales at which a system is studied and can provide evidence for causality in explanations of phenomena

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