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NOVA: Climate Change

WGBH Teachers Domain

This video segment describes climate data collection from Greenland ice cores that indicate Earth's climate can change abruptly over a single decade rather than over thousands of years. The narrator describes how Earth has undergone dramatic climate shifts in relatively short spans of time prior to 8000 years ago. The video and accompanying essay provide explanations of the differences between weather and climate and how the climate itself had been unstable in the past, with wide variations in temperature occurring over decadal timescales.

Video length: 5:49 min.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 6 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Holocene is unusually stable – human infrastructure vulnerable to change
About Teaching Principle 3
Other materials addressing 3d
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
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 video would be a great conversation starter or could be used before or after conducting ice core activities.
  • The discussion questions could be used as a starting point for discussion.
  • The fact that climate has changed in the past and will change abruptly in the future holds existential challenges ("why bother reducing carbon emissions if climate may change suddenly anyhow?") for educators. Focusing on adaptation as well as mitigation may help in framing this challenging topic.

About the Science

  • The dynamics of abrupt climate change are the primary focus of the video; once boundary conditions and thresholds are reached, the climate system can shift quickly and significantly.
  • Video explains how ice core analyses are conducted and how rates of climate change are measured.
  • Evidence from ice core data indicates that climate changes in the past can occur suddenly; therefore, there is also the potential for abrupt climate change in the future.
  • High-quality imagery.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This material first elaborate a key science activity in the history of climate science and then provides evidence obtained from this science activity to reveal the core information of this material, the abrupt climate change noted from the greenland ice cores. It effectively outlines the abrupt changes to the Greenland Ice and human involvement in said changes.

About the Pedagogy

  • Language and graphics are very accessible.
  • Background essay discussion questions and standard alignment make video very usable.
  • Compelling science story with a mystery: how fast can climate patterns shift?

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Excellent quality; downloadable or can be viewed online.
  • Closed captioned.

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

NOAA Paleo Perspective on Abrupt Climate Change: http://www.ncdc.noaa.gov/paleo/abrupt/index.html

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

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.

MS-ESS3.D1:Human activities, such as the release of greenhouse gases from burning fossil fuels, are major factors in the current rise in Earth’s mean surface temperature (global warming). Reducing the level of climate change and reducing human vulnerability to whatever climate changes do occur depend on the understanding of climate science, engineering capabilities, and other kinds of knowledge, such as understanding of human behavior and on applying that knowledge wisely in decisions and activities.

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.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.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

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.

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