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Milankovitch Cycles Climate Applet
http://itg1.meteor.wisc.edu/wxwise/climate/earthorbit.html

Tom Whittaker, University of Wisconsin

An applet about the Milankovitch cycle that relates temperature over the last 400,000 years to changes in the eccentricity, precession, and orbital tilt of Earth's orbit.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 12 Cross Cutting Concepts, 9 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 4 Performance Expectations, 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 6 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • Instructor should take a few minutes to go over the directions below the applet.
  • Be sure to note that you can view the diagram from either the top or the side view.
  • Suggestion: first have students plot temperature data from the Vostok ice core (link on visualization page), and then use this applet to explore and 'test' the strength of various forcing cycles.

About the Science

  • Allows direct comparison, on a graph, between temperature data derived from the Vostok ice core and forcing from the major Milankovitch cycles, paired with animation of Earth's orbit, tilt, and precession over the last 400,000 years.
  • These cycles were first calculated by Serbian mathematician Milutin Milanković in the early 20th Century and are now well established as important factors that can drive long term climate processes. See: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/ctl/clisci100k.html#cycles
  • Because of the understanding of these cycles, climatologists are confident that recent warming is not being caused by such orbital cycles.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The Sun-Earth Geometry is nicely demonstrated
  • The change in Earth's orbit is not displayed. This is the key to Milankovitch Cycles.

About the Pedagogy

  • The direct comparison of the graph and animations allows different learning styles to engage simultaneously with the concepts.
  • Very good example to use to explain a difficult concept, especially to visual learners.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Applet loads quickly and plays fine on Firefox.
  • Requires Adobe Flashplayer.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

MS-ESS1.B2:This model of the solar system can explain eclipses of the sun and the moon. Earth’s spin axis is fixed in direction over the short-term but tilted relative to its orbit around the sun. The seasons are a result of that tilt and are caused by the differential intensity of sunlight on different areas of Earth across the year.

MS-ESS1.C1:The geologic time scale interpreted from rock strata provides a way to organize Earth’s history. Analyses of rock strata and the fossil record provide only relative dates, not an absolute scale.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 12

Systems and System Models, Stability and Change, Patterns

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C4.3:Models are limited in that they only represent certain aspects of the system under study.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

MS-C7.2: Small changes in one part of a system might cause large changes in another part.

MS-C7.3:Stability might be disturbed either by sudden events or gradual changes that accumulate over time.

MS-C7.4:Systems in dynamic equilibrium are stable due to a balance of feedback mechanisms.

MS-C7:

MS-C1.1:Macroscopic patterns are related to the nature of microscopic and atomic-level structure.

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-C1:

Science and Engineering Practices: 9

Developing and Using Models, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P2.2:Develop or modify a model— based on evidence – to match what happens if a variable or component of a system is changed.

MS-P2.3:Use and/or develop a model of simple systems with uncertain and less predictable factors.

MS-P2.5:Develop and/or use a model to predict and/or describe phenomena.

MS-P2.6: Develop a model to describe unobservable mechanisms.

MS-P2.7:Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

MS-P1.7:Ask questions that challenge the premise(s) of an argument or the interpretation of a data set.

MS-P1.1:Ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, models, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

MS-P1.2:ask questions to identify and/or clarify evidence and/or the premise(s) of an argument.

MS-P1.3:Ask questions to determine relationships between independent and dependent variables and relationships in models.

High School

Performance Expectations: 4

HS-ESS1-4: Use mathematical or computational representations to predict the motion of orbiting objects in the solar system.

HS-ESS1-6: Apply scientific reasoning and evidence from ancient Earth materials, meteorites, and other planetary surfaces to construct an account of Earth’s formation and early history.

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-ESS2-4: Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

HS-ESS1.B1:Kepler’s laws describe common features of the motions of orbiting objects, including their elliptical paths around the sun. Orbits may change due to the gravitational effects from, or collisions with, other objects in the solar system.

HS-ESS1.C2:Although active geologic processes, such as plate tectonics and erosion, have destroyed or altered most of the very early rock record on Earth, other objects in the solar system, such as lunar rocks, asteroids, and meteorites, have changed little over billions of years. Studying these objects can provide information about Earth’s formation and early history.

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.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 7

Patterns, Systems and System Models, Stability and Change

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-C1.2:Classifications or explanations used at one scale may fail or need revision when information from smaller or larger scales is introduced; thus requiring improved investigations and experiments.

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

HS-C4.2:When investigating or describing a system, the boundaries and initial conditions of the system need to be defined and their inputs and outputs analyzed and described using models.

HS-C7.1:Much of science deals with constructing explanations of how things change and how they remain stable.

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 6

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models

HS-P1.1:ask questions that arise from careful observation of phenomena, or unexpected results, to clarify and/or seek additional information.

HS-P1.2:ask questions that arise from examining models or a theory, to clarify and/or seek additional information and relationships.

HS-P1.3:ask questions to determine relationships, including quantitative relationships, between independent and dependent variables

HS-P1.7:Ask and/or evaluate questions that challenge the premise(s) of an argument, the interpretation of a data set, or the suitability of a design.

HS-P2.3:Develop, revise, and/or use a model based on evidence to illustrate and/or predict the relationships between systems or between components of a system

HS-P2.6:Develop and/or use a model (including mathematical and computational) to generate data to support explanations, predict phenomena, analyze systems, and/or solve problems.


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