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Back to the Future: Climate Edition

Earth’s climate is constantly changing. Paleoclimatologists — scientists who study ancient climates before current technologies were available to take measurements — provide historical data trends as a baseline for comparison to contemporary climate trends. This lesson set explores how paleoclimate proxies such as ice cores, tree rings, and sedimentary analysis provide evidence for past climates. Paleoclimate data gathered via proxies are valuable tools climate scientists use to analyze current patterns and understand how human activities affect climate conditions.

This lesson set was revised on March 7, 2022.

Age Level
Grades 9-12
Duration
4-6 50 minute classes

NGSS

Disciplinary Core Ideas

  • HS-ESS2.A3: The geological record shows that changes to global and regional climate can be caused by interactions among changes in the sun’s energy output or Earth’s orbit, tectonic events, ocean circulation, volcanic activity, glaciers, vegetation, and human activities. These changes can occur on a variety of time scales from sudden (e.g., volcanic ash clouds) to intermediate (ice ages) to very long-term tectonic cycles.
  • HS-ESS2.D3: Changes in the atmosphere due to human activity have increased carbon dioxide concentrations and thus affect climate.

Performance Expectations

  • HS-ESS3-5 : Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Other Relevant NGSS References:

  1. NGSS Appendix F (pdf): Science and Engineering Practices in the NGSS
  2. NGSS Appendix G (pdf): Crosscutting Concepts
  3. NGSS Appendix H (pdf): Understanding the Scientific Enterprise: The Nature of Science in the Next Generation Science Standards
  4. NGSS Appendix J (pdf): Science, Technology, Society and the Environment

This is a beta version of Lesson Set Three.