Mapping Paleocurrents: Using the Past to Understand the Present
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
- Understand global atmospheric circulation.
- Understand relationship between atmospheric circulation and surface currents.
- Understand the Coriolis Effect, surface friction, and the formation of oceanic gyres.
How the activity is situated in the course
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Other skills goals for this activity
Description and Teaching Materials
The maps I use for this lab were copied from a book a long time ago by David Westerman who originally designed this lab. He can't remember which book they are from and I am in the midst of trying to track down the reference and will give it here as soon as possible. I use maps from the following time periods: the present-day, 80 million years ago, 180 million years ago, 360 million years ago, and 480 million years ago. The maps are best in black and white and need to have latitude grid lines. There are beautiful, color paleogeographic maps available from multiple websites (see list below), however, for this exercise black and white is best and grid lines are essential so I continue to use the old school variety.
- The Paleogeographic Atlas Project from the University of Chicago; nice maps with latitude and longitude grid lines but only for early Permian to Lake Cretaceous.
- Library of Paleogeography by Ron Blakey; beautiful color images with grid lines for all time periods. Some work with these maps in Photoshop might be able to transform these into the simple black and white line drawings that work best for this activity.
- Paleomap Project by Christopher R. Scotese; very nice color maps for all time periods but without grid lines, also has nice paleoclimate maps.
Student Activity Instructions:
Student Instructions (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 17kB May30 13) - This document contains information and instructions for students. The figures in the textbook that are referred to here are maps of global atmospheric circulation and ocean surface currents.
Teaching Notes and Tips
- Students properly located atmospheric circulation patterns
- Students understand the basic principles of gyre formation with the proper Coriolis deflection in each hemisphere and currents forming 45⁰ angle from the wind.
- Students were able to recreate a probable pattern of surface currents for the past.
- Students can show how warm and cold surface water is distributed between the equator and the poles and how this impacts the climate of certain regions.
- The maps are neat, legible and contain a legend