Climate Change Module
- To analyze global temperature data to see if Earth's average global temperatures are really increasing
- To analyze CO2 data to see if atmospheric levels are really increasing
- To correlate CO2 data with global temperature to see if there is a relationship
- To compare current trends with rates of change during pre-historic periods using ice core data
- To interpret what these results mean for understanding current climate change
- To learn basic shortcuts and graphing in Excel
Context for Use
This entire module can be completed in one 3 hour lab period or two 50 minute lecture periods for introductory or intermediate level students. If students have experience graphing in Excel, it is possible to complete Activities A and C within a single 70 minute class period, although there is not much time for discussion (this option excludes doing Activity B, which could be assigned for homework). One option is to have students complete as much as possible in a single class period, complete the rest for homework and to use the subsequent class period for discussion of their results.
This module has been used in a range of courses. For a large general education biology course that is primarily freshmen, the module was completed in the smaller laboratory sections and discussed during lecture. The module has been used in an Ecology course laboratory (all Activities) and in an Environmental Geology lecture (Activity A and B). The module was integrated into a summer science camp for middle school students. A simplified version of the module has been used for a single lecture period in Ecology, where the graphs are already made, printed out and distributed among the students. Module materials can be tailored to increase or decrease the background information depending on students' quantitative skills.
Description and Teaching Materials
Quick overview of the activities in this module
See the teaching materials files, provided below, for a step-by-step description for carrying out this module. A student handout, describing Activities A, B, and C, and instructor answer key are also provided.
- Activity A: Determine current rates of air temperature and CO2 change from modern datasets.
- Activity B: Explore whether temperature and CO2 concentrations are related.
- Activity C: Compare current rates to pre-historical rates of change using data from an ice core to investigate how climate has changed in the past.
Workflow of this module:
- Assign any pre-class readings
- Give students their handout when they arrive to class
- Instructor gives brief PowerPoint presentation with background material. Discussion of the readings can be integrated into this presentation or done before.
- Students can then work through the module activities.
Teaching Notes and Tips
In Activity A, after the presentation and discussion of readings, students work to determine current rates of air temperature and CO2 change from modern datasets. In Activity B, students explore whether temperature and CO2 concentrations are related. In Activity C, students compare current rates to pre-historical rates of change using data from an ice core to investigate how climate has changed in the past.
- Climate Change Module - Instructor's Manual (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 107kB Mar30 17)
- Climate Change Module - Instructor's PowerPoint (to be posted by late April 2017)
References and Resources
Suggested pre-class readings
No readings are required for this exercise, but here are some that might be appropriate, depending upon course level and the instructor's goals.
- IPCC. 2013. Physical Science Basis, Summary for Policymakers http://www.ipcc.ch/report/ar5/wg1/
- A. Seidl 2010. Early Spring: An ecology and her children wake to a warming world. 'Chapter 1 (Weather)' Penguin Random House.
- Barnola, J. M., et al. 1987. "Historical carbon dioxide record from the Vostok ice core." Nature 329: 408-414.