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.

Bipolar Climate Puzzler

This activity was developed during the Teaching Climate Change Using Ice Core Data workshop, held in June 2008.
Contributors: Alan Ashworth, Lisa Doner, Kathy Licht, Warren Tomkiewicz

Topic: Climate oscillations in the Northern and Southern Hemispheres

This activity designed for a capstone activity for an upper-level course.


Description of the activity:

  1. Develop graphs of data from the GISP and Vostok core data
  2. Compare long-term scale (multiple glacial cycles) and short-term scale (9,000 - 15,000 year time period) data from Greenland vs Antarctica
  3. Observation and interpretation of data
  4. Answer the observational questions:
    • What do they notice
    • What does it mean?
    • What is the scale of this behavior? Frequency of change?
    • What could cause this?
  5. Discuss the relationship between data sets
  6. Generate multiple hypotheses for cause of observed relationships

Provide research papers or chapters in a book to access background information: Thermohaline circulation; Milankovic cycles


What are the learning goals or outcomes of the activity?

Student will be able to:

  • Know basic geographical knowledge such as locations of data records
  • Be able to plot the data using a spreadsheet program, such as EXCEL, and make a graph
  • Understand ice core data: ice core dating; gas analysis; isotope analysis
  • Develop an argument
  • Analyze the background readings and draw conclusions
  • Students will make a short presentation using prior knowledge to defend a hypothesis<

How would you assess whether the goals have been met?

  • Quality of the presentation; understand concepts discussed (use a rubric)
  • Use their prior knowledge from previous course work
  • Design a conceptual model that goes along with their understandings

References or other resources that would be useful for this activity:

NOAA Paleoclimatology Databases 
NOAA Paleo-Perspectives on Climate Timeline 
Timing of Millennial-Scale Climate Change in Antarctica and Greenland During the Last Glacial Period, by Thomas Blunier and Edward J. Brook, Science, January 5 2001: Vol. 291. no. 5501, pp. 109 - 112. (abstract)