In this lab exercise, students will work with some of the major evidence for climate change (global warming) that scientists have collected.
Atmospheric scientists theorize that increasing amounts of carbon dioxide (CO2) are related to the warming of earth observed in recent times. This excess CO2 has been attributed to humanity's use of fossil fuels such as coal and petroleum. Burning these fuels releases excess carbon into the atmosphere, carbon that once lay safely inert in the earth. Carbon dioxide functions as a greenhouse gas that traps extra heat from the sun that would normally escape back to space.
Charles Keeling began measuring atmospheric CO2 in the late 1950s, and these measurements have been instrumental in documenting the relationship between atmospheric CO2 and global warming. With CO2 and Global Warming, students will be able to construct a recent segment of the Keeling Curve demonstrating the increase in atmospheric carbon dioxide that we are currently experiencing. The data supplied with this lab also highlights a particularly troubling recent milestone, the first time that atmospheric CO2 has exceeded 400 parts-per-million (ppm) in the last 800,000 years.
The students will also work with data obtained from the analysis of bubbles of atmosphere trapped in Antarctic ice. These air bubbles provide a record of CO2 concentration and temperature for the past 800,000 years, and they are able to document the close relationship between atmospheric CO2 and global temperatures.
It is hoped that this laboratory experience will be able to instill in young people the reality of global warming and some of the major evidence in support of this conclusion.
The Zip file download contains MS Word and PDF files for the lab and lab key.