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Where Glaciers Meet the Sea: How a warming ocean might speed the loss of Greenland's ice

Cherie Winner, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution

This video describes how the normal thousands-of-years-long balance of new ice creation and melting due to ocean currents has been disrupted recently by warmer ocean currents. As a result, glacier tongues that overhang the interface between ice and ocean are breaking off and falling into the ocean.

Video length 3:21 minutes.

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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
Other materials addressing 2b
Melting of ice sheets and glaciers, combined with the thermal expansion of seawater as the oceans warm, is causing sea level to rise. Seawater is beginning to move onto low-lying land and to contaminate coastal fresh water sources and beginning to submerge coastal facilities and barrier islands. Sea-level rise increases the risk of damage to homes and buildings from storm surges such as those that accompany hurricanes.
About Teaching Principle 7
Other materials addressing 7a

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

  • Could be used as part of an oceanography unit or a general unit on the Arctic and climate warming.

About the Science

  • The video describes how the normal thousands-of-years-long balance of new ice creation and melting due to ocean currents has been disrupted recently by warmer ocean currents.
  • Comments from expert scientist: This is a really nice video explaining why the Greenland glaciers have been accelerating in the last decade. The animation starts out with images from Greenland. Then the animation shows the steady state situation and contrasts this to the present situation, demonstrating why the glaciers are accelerating. The animations do an excellent job of presenting the physics of the problem.

About the Pedagogy

  • The animations are clear and illustrate very well the change in the glacier-ocean interface.
  • An OCEANUS article accompanies the video. It is accessible from the "Learn more on Oceanus magazine" link below the video or at http://www.whoi.edu/oceanus/viewArticle.do?id=73766.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Very high-quality images and animations.

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