Explore Real Data from an Ice Core

Compiled by

Stacy Porter, Ohio State University-Main Campus, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center

Jason Cervenec, Ohio State University-Main Campus, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center

Based on data gathered by a team led by

Ellen Mosley-Thompson, Ohio State University-Main Campus, Byrd Polar and Climate Research Center


Summary

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.

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Context

Audience

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.

Goals

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/.

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