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How Permanent is Permafrost?
http://serc.carleton.edu/eet/permafrost/index.html

Marian Grogan, et. al., Earth Exploration Toolbook/TERC

In this activity, students use Google Earth and team up with fictional students in Chersky, Russia to investigate possible causes of thawing permafrost in Siberia and other Arctic regions. Students explore the nature of permafrost and what the effects of thawing permafrost mean both locally and globally. Next, students use a spreadsheet to explore soil temperature data from permafrost boreholes and surface air temperature datasets from in and around the Chersky region for a 50-year time span.

Activity takes about three to five 45-minute class periods. Computer access is required.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Scientific observations indicate that global climate has changed in the past, is changing now, and will change in the future. The magnitude and direction of this change is not the same at all locations on Earth.
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Natural processes driving Earth’s long-term climate variability do not explain the rapid climate change observed in recent decades. The only explanation that is consistent with all available evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change. Future changes in climate may be rapid compared to historical changes.
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Based on evidence from tree rings, other natural records, and scientific observations made around the world, Earth’s average temperature is now warmer than it has been for at least the past 1,300 years. Average temperatures have increased markedly in the past 50 years, especially in the North Polar Region.
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change. Animals, plants, bacteria, and viruses will migrate to new areas with favorable climate conditions. Infectious diseases and certain species will be able to invade areas that they did not previously inhabit.
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
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Changes in environmental conditions can affect the survival of individual organisms and entire species.
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Moving the initial reading to after part 1 or 2 would be a more active way to engage students in the activity.
  • Good to pair students doing this investigation.
  • Pre-load Google Earth and associated files on computers.

About the Science

  • Activity provides a rich collection of print and media resources about scientists studying permafrost in Alaska and Siberia.
  • Data sources are NSIDC, NCAR, NOAA, and NASA, in addition to unique historical permafrost dataset from Siberian Russia.
  • Excellent use and application of science data with a problem-based scenario.
  • Suggested resources for further study are current and good for given grade level.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This is a very good interactive course material for students to learn the topic with an example introduced.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity begins with a case study to engage students' interest in the problem of thawing permafrost.
  • Step-by-step structure of the data access and analysis parts of activity might be difficult for some students to follow easily.
  • Show/hide feature allows students to compare their graphs with a model.
  • Good organization of learning materials and a logical learning sequence leads students to analysis and understanding of complex data sets.
  • Instructions are clear, thorough, and well-written.
  • The case study provides good background information for students (and teachers).
  • Excellent going further activities for advanced students.
  • Activity begins with a lengthy reading, which may be a challenge for some students.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The "show me" feature that helps students through problems and procedures using software is exemplary.
  • Some students will need support guidance with data access and analysis steps.
  • Entire activity online. Students just need to follow the steps.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Google Earth online tutorial: http://www.google.com/earth/learn/beginner.html. SERC Google Earth user's guide: http://serc.carleton.edu/sp/library/google_earth/UserGuide.html.

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