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9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Social Studies, Earth and Space Sciences, History

Resource Types

  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables
  • Interactive Media

Regional Focus


Historic Climate Trends

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  • In this interactive graph, students can view historical data on the average global temperature and the concentration of carbon dioxide, nitrous oxide, and methane in the atmosphere.
Teaching Tips


  • Students can click the "Show" tab above the graph to view data from the last 800,000 years or data from the last 5,000 years.
  • Students can click to view data for temperature, CO2, N2O, or methane individually or in any combination on the graph.

Additional Prerequisites

  • Teachers should note that some data for N2O levels are missing from the graph because the data is not available.


  • Teachers could ask students to think about the following questions as they compare the graph of the last 800,000 years to the graph of the last 5,000 years:
    • What do you notice most when you look at the graph showing the last 800,000 years?
    • What observations can you make from the graph showing the last 800,000 years?
    • What do you notice most when you look at the graph showing the last 5,000 years?
    • What observations can you make from the graph showing the last 5,000 years?
    • Do you think it is more important for scientists to look at very long-term historical climate trends (from the last 800,000 years) or more recent historical climate trends (the last 5,000 years)? Why?
  • Students in earth science classes could look at the trendlines for each of the atmospheric gases and work with a partner to make a list of causes for the steep increase in each of the gases in recent years. 
Scientist Notes
Datasets used are valid, mean monthly data from NOAA/ESRL and Climate change indicators from US EPA are appropriate to explain historical climate changes globally, although there are missing data that were not interpolated, and it is noted in the resource. This resource is recommended for teaching
  • Science
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • 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
      • HS-ESS3-6. Use a computational representation to illustrate the relationships among Earth systems and how those relationships are being modified due to human activity.
      • 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.
    • LS4: Biological Evolution
      • HS-LS4-5. Evaluate the evidence supporting claims that changes in environmental conditions may result in: (1) increases in the number of individuals of some species, (2) the emergence of new species over time, and (3) the extinction of other species.
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