Climate Proxies: Educators' Collection
Glaciers, such as the Matanuska Glacier, AK (pictured), and ice sheets can be cored to provide useful information regarding past climate. Photo by Monica Bruckner
This climate proxy/paleoclimate collection includes activities, assignments, and reading materials created specifically for educators.
- Climate Analysis Using Planktonic Foraminifera. This exercise allows students to manipulate scientific data, plot the data and then interpret their results. You might query the students as to what is the "cause" and what is the "effect" in this scientific problem. The fact that our planet's climate has changed drastically throughout geologic time will be emphasized. Students should recognize that the climate will likely continue to change in the future. (more info)
- Climate Models & Predictions For The Future. These lecture notes from the University of Michigan's Global Change curriculum provide information about paleoclimate and climate modeling. This website includes a list of suggested readings, an image-rich overview of the paleoclimate record (including sections on ice core and deep sediment analyses) and causes of climate change, and a very brief summary of the lecture notes. (more info)
- Climate reconstruction using Foraminifera in Deep Sea Sediments. This Wright Center for Science Education lesson plan (PDF) uses pasta as an analog to teach students how deep sea sediments are collected and analyzed to identify different foraminifera species in order to interpret global paleo temperature change. It includes National Science Education Standards as well as background information and images, a list of materials needed, a step-by-step photo-guided walk-through of the activity, evaluation questions, and reference list. ( This site is likely no longer available. )
- Drilling for the Ocean's Secrets. This NASA site (for kids) features the career of oceanographer Will Sager, who narrates how the Ocean Drilling Program is involved in drilling and interpreting rocks and sediments from the ocean floor. Color images are also included. ( This site may be offline. )
- Global Climate Change Student Guide: Palaeoclimate Reconstruction from Proxy Data. This online student guide features a web-adapted discussion of paleoclimatology, the study of climate and climate change prior to the period of instrumental measurements. This section gives a broad overview of paleoclimate proxies such as shelled microorganisms in deep marine sediments (foraminifera, or forams) and ice core data. This site also includes links to other chapters in the book, also related to understanding climate change. (more info)
- Inferring Ancient Environments from Fossil Foraminifera. Each student will use a reference diagram of fossil foraminifera with their paleo-water-depth assignments to interpret the water-depth of a particular area of California during the geologic past. The model of paleoenvironments and the species found in the samples are based on actual work by Ingle (1980) and Olson (1990). The reconstruction of Miocene environments is applied to the petroleum industry by looking for potential reservoir rock and source rock. (more info)
- Learning about Climate. This site is the first in a series of websites by Geosource which provide general information about climate and past climates for K-5 teachers and students. The series provides a basic introduction to topics such as the difference between weather and climate, factors that effect climate, and what is a climate proxy (e.g. ice cores). The sites also feature colored illustrations and figures. ( This site may be offline. )
- Paleoclimate Proxy Records. This site contains lecture notes about paleoclimate proxies used in an introductory earth science course at Bryn Mawr College. This pdf document offers an illustrated outline of how proxies such as oxygen and carbon isotopes, pollen, organic remains and species assemblages are used to infer past climate. The site also features information about climate cycles and ice ages. ( This site may be offline. )
- Paleoclimatology Education and Outreach. This NOAA website offers a collection of links to paleoclimate (past climate) information and data. Links are organized by topic, which include: highlights from the paleoclimatology program; Ocean sciences; Coral cores; Tree rings; Pollen; and Additional resources. (more info)
- Poking About in the Climatologist's Toolbox. This site, hosted by the University of Wisconsin, is the first in a series of connected pages that discuss the methods scientists use to explore past climate. Informational sections (linked) include how Earth temperature is monitored, computer-based climate models, interpreting past climate from ice cores and lake sediments, how archeology relates to climate change, and how tree rings can help us interpret past climate. (more info)
- Recent Variations in Earth's Climate. These image-rich lecture notes from the Department of Geology at Bryn Mawr College offer information regarding climate change and how paleoclimate (past climate) is inferred using proxies. The notes, in slide form, discuss what affects climate and how climate has changed through time. The notes feature colorful photos, figures, and graphs to illustrate points. Topics discussed include extraterrestrial, short, and long term influences on climate, climate records through time (e.g. as influenced by carbon dioxide and Milankovich cycling), and future predictions/ramifications of climate change. ( This site may be offline. )
- Topic Guide: Paleoclimate. This University of California, Santa Barbara mini-study teaches students about determining paleoclimate (or past climate) based on recently collected data. Web links to data and background information are included, as are worksheet templates and guides for an optional student presentation. ( This site may be offline. )
- Tracking Global Climate Change: Microfossil Record of the Planetary Heat Pump. This lesson plan integrates physics, biology, and geology to understand planetary processes that contribute to climate change through time. The plan includes a hands-on activity that demonstrates heat transfer as well as uses figures and charts to demonstrate how foraminifera (shelled microorganisms)can be used to interpret past climates. (more info)
Other Climate Proxy Collections
General Collection Resources such as news articles, web sites, and reference pages provide a comprehensive array of information about paleoclimate and climate proxies.
Advanced Collection: Compiled for professionals and advanced learners, this climate proxy/paleoclimate collection includes resources such as journal articles, academic reviews, and surveys.
For additional resources about climate proxies and related topics search the Microbial Life collection.