Classroom/Laboratory Activity: Reconstruction of Paleoclimate by Using Isotopic Composition Data

A classroom/laboratory activity to learn about the isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen, analyze the isotopic composition of ice, and understand how isotopic compositions can be used to recreate past temperatures and climate.

Students will plot graphs to analyze data from the Vostok ice core in Antarctica, learn about the ice age and the gas age, calculate past temperatures using hydrogen isotope data, and discuss the possible impacts of changes in carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) concentrations on climate.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. How can you use hydrogen isotope data in an ice core to determine temperature?
  2. How can the isotopic composition of air bubbles in ice cores be used to recreate past climate?

About the Tool

Tool Name Lab: Vostok Ice Core
Discipline Chemistry, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline Isotopes, Isotopic Ratios, Isotopic Composition in paloeclimate reconstructions
Climate Topic Climate and the Cryosphere, Climate Variability Record
Type of Tool Laboratory Activity
Grade Level Undergraduate
Location Antarctica
Vostok Station
Language English
Translation
Developed by  Stephanie Pfirman, Barnard College
Hosted at Columbia University: The Climate System course taught by Peter Schlosser, Stephanie Pfirman, Mingfang Ting, Jason Smerdon
Link http://eesc.columbia.edu/courses/ees/climate/labs/vostok/
Access Online, Offline
Computer Skills Intermediate

Classroom/Laboratory Activity: Climate Change, the Cryosphere, and Rising Sea Levels

A classroom/laboratory activity that introduces the relationship between climate and the cryosphere, explains how sea-level rise can be predicted (based on average global temperature change), and triggers a discussion on the potential impacts of sea-level rise.

ACS Climate Science Toolkit | How Atmospheric Warming Works

An online reading to help students understand the energy balance of planet earth, Stefan-Boltzmann’s Law and solar energy flux received by planet Earth to calculate its surface temperature. This resource can be used to demonstrate the greenhouse effect of the atmosphere by calculating the surface temperature of a bare blackbody earth, a blackbody earth with a 1-layer atmosphere.

Milankovitch Orbital Data Viewer

This model/simulator shows the relationship between changes in Earth’s climate due to variations in the solar energy received by the planet over geological time scales. It shows that over long timescales ice age cycles (Milankovitch cycles) have occurred on earth due to changes in the orbital parameters (obliquity, precession, and eccentricity).