Time Scales of Climate Change

Cara Thompson, Maya Elrick, Erika Grundstrom

This activity was selected for the On the Cutting Edge Reviewed Teaching Collection

This activity has received positive reviews in a peer review process involving five review categories. The five categories included in the process are

  • Scientific Accuracy
  • Alignment of Learning Goals, Activities, and Assessments
  • Pedagogic Effectiveness
  • Robustness (usability and dependability of all components)
  • Completeness of the ActivitySheet web page

For more information about the peer review process itself, please see http://serc.carleton.edu/NAGTWorkshops/review.html.

This page first made public: Apr 10, 2012


This activity introduces students to the fact that climate change occurs at timescales of 1 year to 108 years and there are various drivers to explain these changes. It addresses how scientists detect these scales of climate change on the geologic record. Students, using what they learn, are also asked to evaluate the potential drivers of climate change since the Industrial Revolution.

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Introductory non-science students in various science courses

Skills and concepts that students must have mastered

- oxygen isotopes as a paleoclimate tool
- division

How the activity is situated in the course

a lab to introduce climate and time - wherever it is needed


Content/concepts goals for this activity

- climatic cycles in geologic record
- reading graphs
- ancient proxies for temperature
- anthropogenic climate change

Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity

- analysis of data (using graphs)
- formulation of hypotheses
- synthesis of ideas

Other skills goals for this activity

working in groups

Description of the activity/assignment

Students examine and analyze data sets related to climatic variations on annual, decadal, centurial, millenial, and longer time scales.

Determining whether students have met the goals

Students will turn in their answers at the end of lab.

More information about assessment tools and techniques.

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