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

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)