This is a partially developed activity description. It is included in the collection because it contains ideas useful for teaching even though it is incomplete.

Initial Publication Date: June 11, 2008

Climate Change and Interpreting Ice Core Data

This activity was developed during the Teaching Climate Change Using Ice Core Data workshop, held in June 2008.
Contributed by Jim Botti, Carlyn Buckler, Makeeya Hazelton, Carrie Morrill and George Stone


Topic: Interpret and accurately use graphed data

Course Type: upper level



Individual Study: Look at a simple graph; what conclusions, if any, can you draw given the data? 

Teams Study: Talk about the graph from individual study. Review axis of graphs; What do you know about graphs? What conclusions can you come to about the graph? Did everyone have the same interpretation?

Individual Study: Look at four time series graphs:

CO2, volcanic and solar forcings over the past 1000 years
Three different temperature records over the past 2000 years

Ultimately, we would make our own time series graphs (3 total) using NOAA data points. These would include:

  1. graphing variations in solar radiation,
  2. volcanic activity, and
  3. CO2 levels vs. temperature change over the last 1000 years.

How would you interpret each of these graphs?
Looking at all the graphs, what conclusions, if any, can you make?

Team Study:

  1. Discuss each team's interpretations of the data.
  2. Do all interpretations agree?
  3. Why or why not?
  4. What additional questions do students have about the data? 


Interpret and accurately use graphed data:

  1. understanding
    • X and Y Axis
    • correlation vs causation
    • extrapolating Big Ideas from multiple data sets
  2. making an argument based on evidence
    • units


If they came to the correct conclusions...


NOAA Paleoclimatology page: What are climate forcings?
NOAA Paleoclimatology page: Paleoclimatic Data for the Last 2000 Years