Reading: Isotopic Compositions and Ice Cores

A reading that explains how the analyses of hydrogen and oxygen isotopes from ice cores determine past temperatures on Earth.

Students will learn how isotopic ratios of hydrogen and oxygen in water molecules from the ice-cores can be used to infer temperature variations in the past on Earth.

Use this tool to help students find answers to:

    1. How are isotopic ratios from ice cores used to calculate past temperatures?
    2. Which isotopes of hydrogen and oxygen are used to compare against a standard to draw inferences about temperature variations in the past?

About the tool:

Tool Name How are past temperatures determined from an ice core?
Discipline Chemistry, Earth Sciences
Topic(s) in Discipline                                                        Isotopes, Isotopic Ratios, Isotopic Fractionation, δ18O, Stable Isotopes, SMOW, Paleoclimate Reconstruction, Atomic Number, Atomic Mass
Climate Topic Climate and the Cryosphere
Type of Tool Reading
Grade Level High school, Undergraduate
Location Antarctica
Language English
Developed by Robert Mulvaney
Hosted at SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, a Division of Springer Nature America, Inc.
Link Link
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic

An ice core
Credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Ludovic Brucker
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