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Greenland Ice Sheet project 2: A Record of Climate Change

Zachary Taylor, Wright Center, Teachers' Domain

This interactive visualization describes how climatologists obtain and interpret evidence from the Greenland Ice Sheet in an effort to piece together a picture of Earth's distant climate history. Resource describes how glaciers form and how they can be used to collect ancient atmospheric data. The issues analyzed in the data collection are particularly good in showing how science is done in the field.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Static Visualization supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 3 Cross Cutting Concepts
High School: 2 Performance Expectations, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 4 Science and Engineering Practices

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
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

  • The graphs in the analysis section can be used in other activities. The ability to compare the methane concentration, calcium dust, and insolation graphs to the temperature graph is particularly useful.
  • Educator may want to explain oxygen isotope ratios before doing this activity.

About the Science

  • Comment from expert scientist: This exercise presents a nice summary of how and why ice cores are drilled and presents some of the results. It provides insights into how scientists understand past climate and shows data that puts current climate change in perspective.

About the Pedagogy

  • A background essay and discussion questions are provided with the resource.
  • Resource has a nice set of graphs that can be overlaid with a temperature curve for analysis and comparison.
  • Students can use the data and overlays to draw and defend their own conclusions.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The graphics are clear and well done, even at the small screen size. The graphic may project, but it is better viewed by each student or in small groups on a computer.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Static Visualization supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 3

Patterns, Cause and effect

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.


High School

Performance Expectations: 2

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: 1

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: 4

Patterns, Cause and effect

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-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C2.4:Changes in systems may have various causes that may not have equal effects.

Science and Engineering Practices: 4

Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P3.4:Select appropriate tools to collect, record, analyze, and evaluate data.

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.

HS-P4.3:Consider limitations of data analysis (e.g., measurement error, sample selection) when analyzing and interpreting data

HS-P4.4:Compare and contrast various types of data sets (e.g., self-generated, archival) to examine consistency of measurements and observations.

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