Explore Real Data from an Ice Core
Ice core data allow students to explore a number of patterns while learning that researchers need to gather and interpret evidence to understand Earth's past. Students will explore core data collected in Western Greenland that document a few decades of Earth's atmosphere. Students are challenged to identify patterns and then use those patterns and background information to answer a few key questions. The data include measurements of temperature, dust, and atmospheric gases.
Downloadable files are provided for those who intend to run the activity in person. For those running the activity with an online or virtual class, a separate page includes all of the necessary information for students to complete the activity, including an interactive graph and background readings. Support videos are provided.
This activity is developed for upper-level high school and university students in a geoscience course. The content addressed includes paleoclimatology, glaciology, atmospheric chemistry, climatology, climate change, and geology.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Students need an introduction to ice cores, experience gathering data from scatter plots, and a willingness to solve a puzzle.
How the activity is situated in the course
This is a stand-alone exercise.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
Use of proxy data to learn about Earth's past; observation of patterns in geoscience data sets related to natural and anthropogenic processes
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Analysis of data; finding relevant information within background documents and applying it to address a question; defending claims with evidence
Other skills goals for this activity
Working within a small team; communicating claims with supporting information
Description and Teaching Materials
Instructor notes, student handouts and background reading, slides, and support videos are available at https://byrd.osu.edu/educator/lessons/icecore.
Teaching Notes and Tips
Students are challenged to identify patterns and then use those patterns and background information to determine the year that the core was drilled. In the process, what to do with inconsistent and missing data must be discussed.
References and Resources
A virtual tour of an ice core drilling expedition is available at https://virtualice.byrd.osu.edu/huascaran/.