The Pleistocene Ice Age
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
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Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
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Description of the activity/assignment
What is commonly referred to as the "Ice Age," a time when one-quarter of Earth's land surface was buried by ice, occurred during the Pleistocene Epoch of the Quaternary Period. Pleistocene glaciers profoundly affected landscapes in many parts of the world, including the central United States.
Student materials for this exercise include a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet with data on insolation, hydrogen stable isotopes from glacial ice, and oxygen stable isotopes from deep-sea sediments; an MS Word file student instructions and questions; and an image file with glacial samples. The exercise is divided into three parts.
Part I introduces various types of glacial sediment, maps of moraines, and a general Pleistocene history of Illinois.
In Part II, students work with insolation data at the top of the atmosphere at 65°N, creating a chart and comparing it with the traditional glacial episodes.
Part III involves stable isotope records of δD from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica and δ18O from deep-sea sediment cores. Students graph both records, compare one to the other, and then compare them to the insolation curve from Part II.
Determining whether students have met the goals
Download teaching materials and tips
- Activity Description/Assignment: Student Instructions for Ice Age Activity (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 1.1MB Jun17 19)
- Instructors Notes: Lecture Slides for Ice Age Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 3.4MB Jun17 19)
- Student Workbook for Ice Age Activity (Excel 2007 (.xlsx) 400kB Jun17 19)
- Student Samples for Ice Age Activity (Acrobat (PDF) 1.9MB Jun17 19)
Tofaif, S., V.M. Vandyk, D.P. Le Heron, and J. Melvin, 2019, Glaciers, flows, and fans: Origins of a Neoproterozoic diamictite in the Saratoga Hills, Death Valley, California: Sedimentary Geology, v. 385, pp. 79-95. Online resource – Accessed 17 June 2019
Insolation data:Berger, A, Loutre, M-F, 1999, Parameters of the Earths orbit for the last 5 Million years in 1 kyr resolution: PANGAEA. Online resource – Accessed 17 June 2019
Supplement to: Berger, A., and M-F Loutre, 1991, Insolation values for the climate of the last 10 million of years: Quaternary Science Reviews, v. 10, pp. 297-317. Online resource – Accessed 17 June 2019
Oxygen isotope data:Lisiecki, L.E., and M.E. Raymo, 2005, A Pliocene-Pleistocene stack of 57 globally distributed benthic d18O records: Paleoceanography, v. 20, p. 1003. Online resource – Accessed 17 June 2019
Supplement to: Lisiecki, L.E., and M.E. Raymo, 2005 (Appendix 1) Global Plio-Pleistocene stack of benthic oxygen isotope records. PANGAEA. Online resource – Accessed 17 June 2019
Hydrogen isotope data:
Jouzel, J., C. Lorius, J.R. Petit, C. Genthon, N.I. Barkov, V.M. Kotlyakov, and V.M. Petrov, 1987, Vostok ice core: a continuous isotope temperature record over the last climatic cycle (160,000 years): Nature, v. 329, pp. 403-8.
Jouzel, J., N.I. Barkov, J.M. Barnola, M. Bender, J. Chappellaz, C. Genthon, V.M. Kotlyakov, V. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, J.R. Petit, D. Raynaud, G. Raisbeck, C. Ritz, T. Sowers, M. Stievenard, F. Yiou, and P. Yiou, 1993, Extending the Vostok ice-core record of palaeoclimate to the penultimate glacial period: Nature, v. 364, pp. 407-12.
Jouzel, J., C. Waelbroeck, B. Malaize, M. Bender, J.R. Petit, M. Stievenard, N.I. Barkov, J.M. Barnola, T. King, V.M. Kotlyakov, V. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, D. Raynaud, C. Ritz, and T. Sowers, 1996, Climatic interpretation of the recently extended Vostok ice records: Climate Dynamics, v. 12, pp. 513-521.
Petit, J.R., J. Jouzel, D. Raynaud, N.I. Barkov, J.-M. Barnola, I. Basile, M. Bender, J. Chappellaz, M. Davis, G. Delayque, M. Delmotte, V.M. Kotlyakov, M. Legrand, V.Y. Lipenkov, C. Lorius, L. Pepin, C. Ritz, E. Saltzman, and M. Stievenard, 1999, Climate and atmospheric history of the past 420,000 years from the Vostok ice core, Antarctica: Nature, v. 399, pp. 429-436.
Online resource – Accessed 17 June 2019 https://cdiac.ess-dive.lbl.gov/ftp/trends/temp/vostok/vostok.1999.temp.dat