The first homework assignment is about paleoclimatology a type of Earth science closely related to our course. The goal is to expose you to one of the types of climate research that geoscientists do and get basic experience in Excel creating data visualizations on your own.

Your task is to explore a dataset available from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).  NOAA provides scientific data and tools for forecasting weather, monitoring ocean and atmospheric conditions, and studying marine fisheries, and visualizing deep time climate records.  Your assignment will be to:

  • Get the citation.  Scroll to the bottom of the page to find a reference to a scientific article (the source of the original data).  Copy the text of this article citation (select the entire citation, ctrl-C).  Open a word document and paste (ctrl-V) the citation into the word document.
  • Get the article. Go to Google Scholar  and type in the title of this article.  Open the link to the article.  Take a screenshot of the first page of the article and paste into the same word document.  This is the original study.  
  • Summarize the article. In the same word document below your screenshot, use the article to write a short description of the type of data used, where the samples were collected, how far back in time the record goes, and what their findings were.  For the findings, describe (1) how many glacial-interglacial (cold-warm) spells the Earth has experienced in the last 800 thousand years, which you can deduce from the carbon dioxide record, and (2) how do modern carbon dioxide concentrations compare to those of past warm spells?  This writeup should be less than a page at most). You will want to wait until after you have made your graph to finish the summary.
  • Get the data and make a graph. From the original NOAA link, download the “Excel Data File.”  Select the first two data columns “Gasage (yr BP)” and “CO2 (ppmv),” including the titles and data cells, all the way down to row 1916.  While these cells are selected, go to Excel’s Insert tab at the top, and select chart type “Scatter with straight lines.”  A graph of the data should appear.
  • Make the graph better. Now format the graph. The x-axis is age in years before present.  The y-axis is the concentration of carbon dioxide gas (a greenhouse, planet warming gas) in the atmosphere in different years (see my Canvas announcement from 8/27/21 to read a description of how this works).  Select the y-axis by clicking on on of its numbers.  Right click.  Go to axis options and then text options.  Where you see boxes for minimum and maximum bounds, change minimum to 150 or some other number that lets you spread the data more over the entire graph for better viewing.  Now grab the right side of the graph and stretch it out to make it easier to see year-to-year variation.
  • Show us your graph and data. Select, copy, and paste the graph into your Word document.  Take a screenshot of your Excel data and paste that into the Word document.

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