The Past Earth Network aims to comminicate current research about climate change and how we model it, both in the past and the future. To help raise awareness of climate change, and of the importance of statistics, the PEN offered talks in schools by researchers. These are now closed, however you can see the talks offered below.
To understand what the climate will do in the future, it is useful to understand how it has behaved in the past. There are no weather records from one million or even 1000 years ago, and so to reconstruct past climate we need to be inventive! Scientists have devised a variety of ingenious ways of uncovering climate information hidden in other sources. For example, the spacing between the rings in the trunks of ancient trees can tell us about the temperature and rainfall in a given year. And the chemical composition of water stored deep in Antarctica’s glaciers can tell us about the ocean temperature tens of thousands of years ago.
As you might imagine, these records are far from perfect. The task of processing all of these different sources and combining them to give the best possible understanding of what the climate was like, requires complex statistics and mathematics. In this talk, I will discuss the difficulty of statistically analysing data, mistakes in doing this can even lead to controversies such as the hockey-stick graph dispute and the climate-gate emails.
Audience: GSCE students (Year 10/11)
Region: South Yorkshire, North Derbyshire & Nottinghamshire
Life on Earth has suffered a number of catastrophic blows over the past 500 million years. The fossil record gives a unique perspective on the evolution of life and bears witness to a number of catastrophic mass extinction events. The most severe of these crises, often referred to as the “Big 5”, wiped out as much as 95% of life on Earth. These mass extinctions were predominantly caused by environmental domino effects triggered by massive volcanic eruptions leading to rapid greenhouse warming.
The fossil record, despite its incompleteness, provides stark evidence of the threats of rapid climate change and parallels are already been made between the “Big 5” and the so-called present day “6th mass extinction”. In this talk, I will explain how palaeobiologists have been able to identify mass extinctions in the fossil record, how, when and why they happened, how life survived and recovered, and whether we should be concerned about the 6th mass extinction.
Audience: GSCE students (Year 10/11)and A-level (Year 12/13) students
Region: West Yorkshire, South Yorkshire, and York area.
Most of us know the cold icy continent that covers the South Pole, but Antarctica has not always been this vast wilderness of snow and ice. During the reign of the dinosaurs, Antarctica was covered in forests and looked very different to today. Further forward in Earth history, at the same time as we find the first evidence for our modern ancestors in Africa, large parts of the West and East Antarctic ice sheets had collapsed under climate conditions not too dissimilar from our own! I will talk you through the fascinating changes that have occurred on Antarctica and talk about some of the models and data collection methods that we use to help us discover the history of the ice sheet.
Audience: Can be adapted for Primary Years, Secondary Years, GCSE Students
Region: West Yorkshire, Coventry and Warwickshire.
In this talk, I will discuss how climate models work, in general, and how we built Build Your Own Earth. I will demonstrate how to use Build Your Own Earth, and, if students have access to computers, tablets, or their phones with internet access during the class, then we can get the students started using the tool as part of the session.
Audience: Can be adapted for Primary Years (ages 10+), Secondary Years, GCSE and A-level Students
Region: York and Manchester, and rail-connected areas.