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Arctic Tundra May Contribute to Warmer World
http://www.nsf.gov/news/news_images.jsp?cntn_id=114865&org=NSF

University of Florida, National Science Foundation

In this audio slideshow, an ecologist from the University of Florida describes the radiocarbon dating technique that scientists use to determine the amount of carbon within the permafrost of the Arctic tundra. Understanding the rate of carbon released as permafrost thaws is necessary to understand how this positive feedback mechanism is contributing to climate change that may further increase global surface temperatures.

Each of the 3 videos is about 1 minute long.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

The abundance of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere is controlled by biogeochemical cycles that continually move these components between their ocean, land, life, and atmosphere reservoirs. The abundance of carbon in the atmosphere is reduced through seafloor accumulation of marine sediments and accumulation of plant biomass and is increased through deforestation and the burning of fossil fuels as well as through other processes.
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The interconnectedness of Earth’s systems means that a significant change in any one component of the climate system can influence the equilibrium of the entire Earth system. Positive feedback loops can amplify these effects and trigger abrupt changes in the climate system. These complex interactions may result in climate change that is more rapid and on a larger scale than projected by current climate models.
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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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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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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

  • Appropriate for environmental science biology or Earth science courses, grades 6 - 14.
  • Supporting materials more appropriate for upper high school and undergrad students.
  • The pieces provide rich materials for an in-depth unit of curriculum on carbon balance, which may include the Nature paper.
  • Illustrations can be made larger and downloaded or used as handouts.
  • Younger students could be encouraged to create a concept map illustrating the mechanisms, inputs, and outputs of this carbon cycle and how it contributes to climate change naturally.

About the Science

  • A review of Arctic ecologist Ted Schuur's research using radiocarbon dating to track current metabolism of old carbon in an area where permafrost thaw is increasing.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The study is based on the direct measurements of carbon using instruments and thus provides direct evidence of terrestrial carbon release following permafrost thaw.

About the Pedagogy

  • Accompanying the slideshow are two video clips and a wonderful background article along with two visual illustrations depicting the carbon cycle and changes in the carbon balance over time. All provide ample scaffolding.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Slideshow is excellent with beautiful photographs.
  • The inability to download the video encourages watching it on an individual laptop or projected onto a screen for larger audiences.
  • The accompanying pieces complement its effectiveness and ease of use.

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