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How Do Ice Cores Allow Researchers to Look at Global Climate Change?

Bess Koffman, Anya Rose, Karl Kreutz, Ron Lisnet, University of Maine

In this video, a PhD Student from the University of Maine explains how ice cores are used to study global climate change.

Video length: 4:54 minutes.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas
High School: 5 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Role of aerosols in climate system
About Teaching Principle 2
Other materials addressing 2e
Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
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

  • Could be used as in a lesson or unit on Antarctica and climate change.
  • Effective brief framing tool for use as an introduction to a unit on paleoclimatology or "how do scientists know what they know?" The video does not delve into details of paleoclimatology.
  • Teachers could also use this video to have a discussion about young women in climate science.
  • Progression of time that is captured in the ice cores should be clarified by the educator.

About the Science

  • The video shows how ice cores are handled and measurements taken in an Antarctic lab.
  • The PhD student working with the ice cores discusses what variables of atmospheric chemistry are measured.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This video introduces the concepts of annual variations within ice cores, and gives the viewer a feeling for the methods involved in taking ice core measurements. It also describes why ice cores are useful as paleoclimate records, and briefly touches on the limitations of individual proxy records. The narrator states that global temperature can be determined from Antarctic ice cores, which isn't correct- only global temperature trends as indicated by sea level and greenhouse gas content can be approximated. Overall, this was one of the best videos on the cryosphere.

About the Pedagogy

  • The two narrators of the video are young female researchers. This provides a nice opportunity for students to see that researchers can be relatively young, and can be women.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Technical quality is good.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 5

MS-ESS2.A2:The planet’s systems interact over scales that range from microscopic to global in size, and they operate over fractions of a second to billions of years. These interactions have shaped Earth’s history and will determine its future.

MS-ESS2.C1:Water continually cycles among land, ocean, and atmosphere via transpiration, evaporation, condensation and crystallization, and precipitation, as well as downhill flows on land.

MS-ESS2.C2:The complex patterns of the changes and the movement of water in the atmosphere, determined by winds, landforms, and ocean temperatures and currents, are major determinants of local weather patterns.

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: 5

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.

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.

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