Explore Real Data from an Ice Core


Background Information and Instructor Overview

Ice core data allow students to explore a number of patterns (including cyclic patterns) while learning that researchers need to gather and interpret evidence to understand Earth's past. Students will explore core data collected in Western Greenland that document a few decades of Earth's atmosphere. Students are challenged to identify patterns and then use those patterns and background information to determine the year that the core was drilled. In the process, challenges of what to do with inconsistent and missing data must be discussed. The data include measurements of temperature, dust, and atmospheric gases. This activity is developed for upper-level high school and university students and will need instructor support.

Downloadable files are provided below for those who intend to run this activity in person. For those running the activity with an online or virtual class, a separate page includes all of the necessary information for students to complete the activity, including an interactive graph and background readings. Click here to visit that page. The four videos below may be used with in person classes or embedded in course management systems to support lesson delivery.

Video of Instructions


Videos of Interpretation of Results for Tasks 2 and 3


Downloadable Files



Student Handout of Data Tables (PDF)

Student Handout of Data Tables - Key (PDF)



Nuclear Weapons Testing History (PDF)

Slides for Instructor Presentation (PowerPoint)

Slides for Instructor Presentation (PDF)



Presentation Given by a Byrd Center Researcher

Stacy Porter, a researcher at the Byrd Center, provides an overview of ice cores and how they allow scientists to understand conditions of Earth's atmosphere in the past. Toward the end of the video, she introduces students to three challenges in looking at ice core data collected from Western Greenland.

Virtual Reality Tour of an Ice Core Drilling Expedition

While the data and background information for this virtual lesson is for Western Greenland, you can participate in an ice core drilling campaign with the Byrd Center on a summit in Peru by clicking here.

                                                  To ask questions or comment, e-mail Karina Peggau at peggau.1@osu.edu or 614-688-8279