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6. Past Climate Change


Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

Pathway: Basic weather/ Climate 

 Weather and Climate – Atmospheric and Oceanic Circulation – Climate ZonesPast Climate Change 

Lesson overviewIn this lesson we look at how global temperatures have changed over the last 400,000 years and investigate volcanoes and the Milankovitch cycles as the drivers of change, in preparation for a more detailed look at anthropogenic climate change in later lessons. 

We know about the past climate of Earth from instrumental records and paleoclimatology in which we reconstruct global climate from proxy variables including air trapped in ice bubbles and preserved organic remains.  There are several major natural influences on the climate including the Milankovitch cycles, which describe the combined effect of changes to our planets orbit around the Sun, volcanic activity, the Sun and continental drift.  By understanding these, we are able to model past climates and improve our understanding of the Earth’s climate system.

Learning objectives:

  • To be able to describe the major changes to temperature over long periods of time.

  • To be able to explain why climate changes over time.

Key Teaching Resources

Past Climate Change PowerPoint
Past Climate Change PowerPoint (easier)
Past Climate Change Worksheet
Past Climate Change Worksheet (easier)
Little Ice Age Mystery Homework
Little Ice Age Mystery Homework (with key)
Little Ice Age Mystery (for Teachers)

Teacher CPD/ Extended Reading

Past Climate Change – More for Teachers

Alternative or Extension Resources

Mystery: Why do we expect a white Christmas?

Using tree rings to explore past weather and climate 

Past Climate Change Teaching Resources

Using Leaves as Thermometers

Research exercise – looking for sources of evidence for past climate change (advanced)

Weather and Climate: a Teachers’ Guide

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