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Geoff Haines-Stiles Productions, Earth: The Operators' Manual


6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Videos, 3 minutes, 1 second, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Europe, Polar Regions


YouTube Video

CO2 in the Ice Core Record

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  • In this video, geologist Richard Alley visits the National Ice Core Lab to explain how scientists use ancient ice cores to understand the history of climate on Earth.
  • Students will learn how scientists use ice cores to determine how carbon dioxide levels in the atmosphere have changed over hundreds of thousands of years.
Teaching Tips


  • Students will enjoy seeing the interior of the National Ice Core Lab.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Ads may play before the video.
  • The video explains that we "blew past 380" when referencing atmospheric carbon dioxide, this number has changed since the video was produced. For the most recent data, teachers can check the NOAA website.
  • This segment is part of a series of videos hosted by geologist Richard Alley.


  • Teachers could draw stratification on the board to explain ice cores and paleoclimate. Students could discuss how the ice strata contain air bubbles from thousands of years ago.
  • After the video, teachers can go back to 2 minutes, 12 seconds, and ask students to think about the correlation between carbon dioxide levels and temperature. Students could discuss how the rapid rise in atmospheric carbon dioxide levels is affecting Earth's climate.
  • Other resources on this topic include this interactive lesson on ice cores, this PBS video on how scientists analyze the gases in ice cores, and this video that features scientists taking ice core samples in Antarctica.
Scientist Notes
This resource includes a 3-minute video and supporting textual information describing how scientists get carbon dioxide and temperature data from Arctic and Antarctic ice cores, and what this has taught us about Earth's previous 400,000 years. At the time of the publication of this video, the CO2 levels were approaching 400 ppm, the levels have changed since the video's publication. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • MS-ESS2-2 Construct an explanation based on evidence for how geoscience processes have changed Earth's surface at varying time and spatial scales.
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • 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.
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