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: Ocean Chemistry, Ocean Acidification, and Oyster Growth

A classroom/laboratory activity to learn about the pH of ocean water, explore the potential effects of climate change on ocean acidification, and understand the possible impacts of ocean acidification on marine organisms such as oysters.

Students will explore and analyze the relationship between the growth of oyster larvae and the chemistry of ocean water (aragonite saturation state) by plotting graphs for actual data from the Whiskey Creek Hatchery in Oregon, USA.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. If ocean water became more acidic, how might it affect oyster populations?
  2. What are the possible impacts of climate change on the chemistry of seawater?

About the Tool

Tool Name Ocean Acidification and Oysters Lab
Discipline Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline pH Scale, Acids and Bases, Acidification, Ocean Carbonate Chemistry, Seawater Chemistry, Aragonite Saturation State, Ocean Acidity
Climate Topic Climate and the Hydrosphere
Type of Tool Laboratory Activity
Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Location North America
USA
Language English
Translation
Developed by Hilary Palevsky, UW Oceanography
Hosted at Program on Climate Change, College of the Environment, University of Washington
Link https://pcc.uw.edu/education/classroom-resources/climate-teaching-modules/uwhs-atms-211-ocean-acidification-and-oysters-lab/
Access Online, Offline
Computer Skills Intermediate

(Image credit: Program on Climate Change, College of the Environment, University of Washington)

Classroom/Laboratory Activity (in French): Using Oxygen Isotopic Compositions to Determine Past Climate

A classroom/laboratory activity to learn about oxygen isotopes (18O and 16O); understand the relative distribution of these isotopes in the atmosphere, ocean, and cryosphere; and explore how the concentration of these isotopes can be used as indicators of paleoclimate.

Classroom/Laboratory Activity: The Impact of Human Activities on the Natural Carbon Cycle

A classroom/laboratory activity to understand the carbon cycle, and to explore how human activities may affect the natural carbon cycle.

Students will run a simulation to explore how an increase in fossil fuel use will affect the natural carbon cycle, and will discuss the possible impacts on flora and fauna.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. Which components in the carbon cycle act as carbon sinks?
  2. What are the possible impacts of deforestation on the natural carbon cycle? How might these changes affect the Earth’s climate?

About the Tool

Tool Name The Habitable Planet – Carbon Lab
Discipline Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline Carbon Cycle, Biogeochemical Cycles, Environmental Chemistry
Climate Topic Long-term Cycles and Feedback Mechanisms
Type of Tool Laboratory Activity
Grade Level High School
Location  Global
Language English
Translation
Developed by Annenberg Learner
Hosted at Annenberg Learner
Link https://www.learner.org/courses/envsci/interactives/carbon/index.php
Access Online
Computer Skills Intermediate

Classroom/Laboratory Activity: Survival Skills—Response of Organisms to Climate Change

A classroom/laboratory activity to analyze the distribution of beetle, mammal, and plant species (for datasets from North America) in the past (based on fossil records), determine whether the same species exist today, and compare the past and present geographic ranges and ecosystems of these species.