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Great Ocean Conveyor Belt: Part II

WGBH Teachers Domain

This podcast features the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt and potential impact of an increase in fresh water (from melting sea ice the Arctic) entering the North Atlantic. It includes interviews with two scientists and discusses the impact of changes in the Great Ocean Conveyor Belt on the climate in Northern Europe over the course of a century.

Podcast length: 4 min 36 sec.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Covering 70% of Earth's surface, the ocean exerts a major control on climate by dominating Earth's energy and water cycles. It has the capacity to absorb large amounts of solar energy. Heat and water vapor are redistributed globally through density-driven ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. Changes in ocean circulation caused by tectonic movements or large influxes of fresh water from melting polar ice can lead to significant and even abrupt changes in climate, both locally and on global scales.
About Teaching Principle 2
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Thermal energy carried by ocean currents has a strong influence on climates around the world. Areas near oceans tend to have more moderate temperatures than they would if they were farther inland but at the same latitude because water in the oceans can hold a large amount of thermal energy.
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Transfer of thermal energy between the atmosphere and the land or oceans produces temperature gradients in the atmosphere and the oceans. Regions at different temperatures rise or sink or mix, resulting in winds and ocean currents. These winds and ocean currents, which are also affected by the earth's rotation and the shape of the land, carry thermal energy from warm to cool areas.
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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

  • This podcast can be used to correct the science in the movie The Day after Tomorrow or as a way to introduce the role of ocean currents on climate.

About the Science

  • The transcript of the podcast is provided, but the citation for the original Science article is not. The date of airing is also not readily available.
  • Another term for the Great Conveyor Belt is "THC" or "thermohaline circulation". In the Atlantic it is known as "AMOC" or "Atlantic Meridional Overturning Circulation".
  • The science continues to evolve. The podcast from 2005 was produced after the popular movie The Day After Tomorrow was released. The film focused on a NOAA Paleoclimatologist who warned that disruption of the thermohaline circulation would cause super storms and abrupt change (cooling) of the Northern Hemisphere, which is certainly not what the science suggests.

About the Pedagogy

  • The podcast provides the opportunity to use auditory media in the classroom.
  • The transcript of the podcast is provided as well as a background essay, discussion questions, and links to related lessons from Teachers' Domain.
  • The podcast should be used with a visual or animation of the thermohaline circulation in the Atlantic.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The podcast is professional and clearly presented.

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