Module 4: Global Records of Climate Change - The Deep Sea and Ice Cores

James S. Oliver III and Russell W. Graham, The Pennsylvania State University
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Initial Publication Date: July 5, 2018 | Reviewed: August 4, 2022


In this module, students explore and analyze records of past climate. In the first part of the module, students are given background information about long-term records of Earth's climate: deep sea sediment cores and ice cores. Students are also introduced to Oxygen isotopes and how they are used as records of past climate. Students complete a set of exercises that assess their understanding of the material and ask them to analyze data about the Laurentide Ice Sheet using the Neotoma Explorer. In the second part of the module, students examine Antarctic ice core data and apply their knowledge from the beginning of the module.

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Learning Goals

By the end of this activity, participants will:

  1. Gain basic information about long-term climate records.
  2. Make observations about and analyze climate records and related data.

Context for Use

This is a laboratory type exercise that can accompany a lecture series on climate change and biotic response. It can be be used for any size class since it is on line. Classes of about 20-25 are the most ideal of they are being facilitated by an instructor. This is the fourth in a series of 7 modules to be used by participants to understand how climate change in the past and future affects the distribution of mammal species. Each module builds on the next to introduce participants to climate patterns, change in climate through time, ecology & paleoecology and the interaction between climate and biotic distributions.

Description and Teaching Materials

Students are given background information and then asked to answer a series of questions in order to assess their comprehension of the material. The exercises in this module require that students use the online Neotoma Explorer. If they have problems with the exercises, they should reread the material, use references that are provided, or be facilitated by an instructor.

Module 4: Global Records of Climate Change - The Deep Sea and Ice Cores (Microsoft Word 2007 (.docx) 10MB Jul5 18)

Teaching Notes and Tips

Sediment cores from the sea and ice cores provide independent information about climate change. These data can then be used to develop hypotheses about how climate change during a particular time interval should effect the dispersal of mammals. These hypotheses can then be tested with the Neotoma Paleoecological Database. The 18O/16O ratios are inversely related for sediment cores and ice cores because 16O is preferentially stored in the glacier, whereas in the ocean 18O values are enriched because of 16O depletion.

References and Resources