Teaching Module: Orbital Forcing and Earth’s Climate

A set of classroom/laboratory activities to reconstruct Earth’s past climate using isotopic composition data from ice cores and to highlight the influence of orbital forcing and atmospheric carbon dioxide feedback on Earth’s climate.

Students will reconstruct Earth’s past temperatures by plotting graphs of isotopic compositions from ice cores in Antarctica. They will determine the relative contributions of orbital parameters (eccentricity, obliquity, precession) and atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations on Earth’s past climate.

Use this tool to help students find answers to:

    1. How can you use isotopic compositions to reconstruct past climate?
    2. What is the influence of orbital forcing on Earth’s climate?
    3. How are temperature variations amplified by increased atmospheric carbon dioxide concentrations?

About the tool:

Tool Name From Isotopes to Temperature, & Influences of Orbital Forcing on Ice Core Records
Discipline Earth Science
Topic(s) in Discipline Isotopic Compositions, Isotopic Ratios, Orbital Forcing, Milankovitch Cycles, Climate Feedbacks
Climate Topic Climate and the Atmosphere, Climate and the Cryosphere
Type of Tool Teaching Module
Grade Level Undergraduate
Location Global
Language English
Developed by Spruce Schoenemann, UW Earth and Space Sciences for the University of Washington in the High School Climate Science Course.
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-from-isotopes-to-temperature-influences-of-orbital-forcing-on-ice-core-records/
Access Online
Computer Skills Basic

Three variables of the Earth’s orbit—eccentricity, obliquity, and precession
Diagrams by Robert Simmon