Jump to this Animation »
Missing Carbon: CO2 Growth in the last 400,000 Years

Greg Shirah, Jim Callatz, NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Scientific Visualization Studio

This NASA animation presents the levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide over the last 400,000 years, last 1000 years and last 25 years at different time scales. The data come from the Lake Vostok ice cores (400,000 BC to about 4000 BC), Law Dome ice cores (1010 AD to 1975 AD) and Mauna Loa observations (1980 to 2005).

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 3 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 3 Performance Expectations, 7 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 2 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

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

  • A short animation that shows how carbon dioxide in the atmosphere has fluctuated over time.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This is a very nice animation showing the atmospheric CO2 concentrations as measured at Mauna Loa and reconstructed from ice cores. It requires background and introductory instruction prior to use. Does not work as a stand alone resource.

About the Pedagogy

  • This simple presentation makes it clear how extraordinary the levels of atmospheric CO2 are since the industrial revolution.
  • There is no background material accompanying this animation, no information on where/how these data were developed.
  • Teachers should pose to students the question of "what is missing carbon and where is the missing carbon going?"

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The animation plays for 15.0 seconds and the downloads are 7-11MB.

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


Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

MS-PS3.D1:The chemical reaction by which plants produce complex food molecules (sugars) requires an energy input (i.e., from sunlight) to occur. In this reaction, carbon dioxide and water combine to form carbon-based organic molecules and release oxygen.

MS-PS3.D2:Cellular respiration in plants and animals involve chemical reactions with oxygen that release stored energy. In these processes, complex molecules containing carbon react with oxygen to produce carbon dioxide and other materials.

MS-LS1.C1:Plants, algae (including phytoplankton), and many microorganisms use the energy from light to make sugars (food) from carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and water through the process of photosynthesis, which also releases oxygen. These sugars can be used immediately or stored for growth or later use.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Patterns, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

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

MS-C1.3: Patterns can be used to identify cause and effect relationships.

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C3.1:Time, space, and energy phenomena can be observed at various scales using models to study systems that are too large or too small.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

MS-P4.1:Construct, analyze, and/or interpret graphical displays of data and/or large data sets to identify linear and nonlinear relationships.

MS-P4.2:Use graphical displays (e.g., maps, charts, graphs, and/or tables) of large data sets to identify temporal and spatial relationships.

MS-P4.3: Distinguish between causal and correlational relationships in data.

High School

Performance Expectations: 3

HS-ESS2-1: Develop a model to illustrate how Earth’s internal and surface processes operate at different spatial and temporal scales to form continental and ocean-floor features.

HS-ESS2-2: Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth's surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.

HS-ESS2-7: Construct an argument based on evidence about the simultaneous coevolution of Earth’s systems and life on Earth.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 7

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.

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.

HS-ESS3.D1:Though the magnitudes of human impacts are greater than they have ever been, so too are human abilities to model, predict, and manage current and future impacts.

HS-PS3.D2:The main way that solar energy is captured and stored on Earth is through the complex chemical process known as photosynthesis.

HS-LS1.C4:As a result of these chemical reactions, energy is transferred from one system of interacting molecules to another. Cellular respiration is a chemical process in which the bonds of food molecules and oxygen molecules are broken and new compounds are formed that can transport energy to muscles. Cellular respiration also releases the energy needed to maintain body temperature despite ongoing energy transfer to the surrounding environment.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity

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

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C3.4:Using the concept of orders of magnitude allows one to understand how a model at one scale relates to a model at another scale.

Science and Engineering Practices: 2

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P4.2:Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible.

Jump to this Animation »