Cool Cores Capture Climate Change

This Earth Exploration Toolbook chapter is a detailed computer-based exploration in which students learn how various climatic conditions impact the formations of sediment layers on the ocean floor. They analyze sediment core data from the Ross Ice Shelf in Antarctica for evidence of climate changes over time. In addition, they interact with various tools and animations throughout the activity, in particular the Paleontological Stratigraphic Interval Construction and Analysis Tool (PSICAT) that is used to construct a climate change model of a sediment core from core images.

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Jean Pennycook
Earth Exploration Toolbook/TERC

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Pair ELL students with non-ELL students at the computers if possible. Teachers should download the PSICAT programs to computers ahead of time.

Spend some extra time guiding students through the PSICAT program.

Reinforce that the oldest sediments are at the bottom of the core and the youngest sediments are at the top of the core; this is particularly important when students build their own core to illustrate a warm climate and open water in the Ross Sea followed by a period of cooling, the advance of an ice sheet, and finally a period of warming with a retreat of the ice sheet.

Refer through the activity back to the guiding questions at the end of the case study
Climate is indicated by the type of sediment found in the cores.

To shorten this activity, students can do parts of the step-by-steps such as viewing the cards with images of the core

If time for the complete activity is not available, having students interact with the interactive animation in Step 4, showing an ice shelf advancing and retreating, is recommended

A related core investigation activity which is not computer-based and is less involved is