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.

Students will plot graphs to analyze data from the Greenland ice core and predict past climates by using oxygen isotope data. They will also analyze data from the Vostok ice core (Antarctica) to discuss the possible impacts of changes in oxygen isotope 18O, carbon dioxide (CO2), and methane (CH4) concentrations on climate.

Use this tool to help your students find answers to:

  1. What are the isotopes of oxygen? What is their relative distribution in the atmosphere, ocean, and rainwater?
  2. How can the isotopic composition of air bubbles in ice cores be used to recreate past climate?

About the Tool

Tool Name Variations climatiques et composition isotopique de l’oxyène (O18_16 (Oxygène))
Discipline Chemistry
Topic(s) in Discipline Isotopes of Elements, Isotopic Fractionation, Oxygen Isotope Ratios as Temperature Proxies, Paleoclimatic Indicators
Climate Topic Climate Variability Record
Type of Tool Laboratory Activity, Teaching Module
Grade Level High School, Undergraduate
Location  Global
Language French
Developed by Jean-Yves Guchereau and Pierre Perez, Lycée de Bagatelle (Saint-Gaudens)
Hosted at Academie de Toulouse
Link http://pedagogie.ac-toulouse.fr/svt/serveur/lycee/perez/clindex/clindex.htm; ftp://garonne.ac-toulouse.fr/svt/tpbio/
Access Online, Offline
Computer Skills Intermediate