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Milankovitch Cycles


These animations depict the three major Milankovitch Cycles that impact global climate, visually demonstrating the definitions of eccentricity, obliquity, and precession, and their ranges of variation and timing on Earth.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 5 Cross Cutting Concepts

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

  • Students struggle to understand these concepts of precession, eccentricity, and obliquity; this animated visualization will help.
  • The quizzes that are included are either very simplistic or problematic to get correct answers to (this is particularly true for the one on obliquity cycles). However, the visualizations, although relatively old, are accurate and well-explained.

About the Science

  • Animations are provided of the three major Milankovitch Cycles that impact global climate, visually demonstrating the definitions of eccentricity, obliquity, and precession.
  • The visual exaggeration of cycles is enormous, but is acknowledged in text on the slides.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The activity is a good review/introduction of the concepts of Milankovitch cycles.
  • The questions posed along with the progression of the activity are a good check for understanding of the material.
  • Educator should define the term "insolation" prior to use.

About the Pedagogy

  • Tests of student knowledge and skills included in the tutorial range from simplistic to frustrating, as correct answers are not identified.
  • Students click through 9 slides, choosing buttons to change states, with occasional self-tests.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to use. Animations, while not to scale, are accurate in their descriptions and get the job done. This should be an improvement over static diagrams for most students.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

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-ESS1.B:Earth and the Solar System

Cross Cutting Concepts: 5

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Energy and Matter

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-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-C3.1:The significance of a phenomenon is dependent on the scale, proportion, and quantity at which it occurs.

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.

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

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