The Modern Atmospheric C02 Record

In this activity, students compare carbon dioxide data from Mauna Loa Observatory, Barrow, Alaska, and the South Pole over the past 40 years. Students use the data to learn about what causes short-term and long-term changes in atmospheric carbon dioxide. This activity makes extensive use of Excel.

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Robert McCay
Clark College
Starting Point Collection, SERC

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

Smaller segments of this activity along with individual images or Quicktime animations could be used for interactive lecture discussion.

Introducing basic ideas in class before the assignment will help students get started.

Questions are provided at the completion of this activity that facilitate a classroom discussion.

Based on IPCC 2001, it should be updated to current assessment (available at:

Additional data available at