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Are Humans Influencing Modern Climate?

Ryan Vachon, University of Colorado Outreach

In this short video, host Dr. Ryan interviews graduate student Amy Steiker at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research about her research, using isotopes of nitrous oxide, connecting human activity to greenhouse gas emissions.

Video length is 2:11 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: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Human activities have increased GHG levels and altered global climate patterns
About Teaching Principle 6
Other materials addressing 6c

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

  • This would be a great resource to use in the classroom as an introduction or review for a unit on greenhouse gases, isotopes, or the nitrogen cycle. The terminology is high school level, and students would need to have already been introduced to it or investigate further.
  • Educators could find data on nitrous oxide levels across the globe and have students draw conclusions about distributions and sources of nitrous oxide.

About the Science

  • Scientific studies show that changes in greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, like carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide, are linked to specific human activity. Samples of air are collected from all over the world and analyzed for stable isotopes by graduate student Amy Steiker at the Institute of Arctic and Alpine Research. Streiker has found that the isotopic signature of nitrous oxide is changing due to increasing nitrous oxide released from man-made fertilizers.
  • Several sources are cited.
  • Several brief visualizations illustrate basic concepts of greenhouse gases and isotopes.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This resource introduces the importance of human activities to the increase of greenhouse gases and presents a state-of-art technique: tracking stable isotopes to understand sources and sinks of elements relevant to greenhouse gases. The points are well made that isotopes provide a unique tool because they trace processes in the global environment. Given the fact that the 120-second video can only cover limited materials, the audience will greatly benefit from supporting materials.

About the Pedagogy

  • No additional materials are provided with the video. The host, Ryan, does an excellent job of cutting down scientific jargon and explaining the basic scientific concepts behind the research.
  • Video is definitely palatable and somewhat engaging for students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video has high production quality with a fast pace. It is easily accessible on vimeo.

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: 3

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.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.

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