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Losing Permafrost in Alaska

Spanner Films, WGBH Educational Foundation

This video and accompanying essay review the impacts of rising surface air temperatures and thawing permafrost on ecosystems, geology, and native populations in Alaska.

Video length: 4:13 minutes.

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Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Climate's role in habitats ranges and adaptation of species to climate changes
About Teaching Principle 3
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Evidence shows that human-caused global warming have impacted ecosystem resulting in reduced biodiversity and ecological resilience
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Ecosystems on land and in the ocean have been and will continue to be disturbed by climate change
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Energy Literacy

Environmental quality is impacted by energy choices.
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7.3 Environmental quality.
Some populations are more vulnerable to impacts of energy choices than others.
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7.6 Vulnerable populations.
Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
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4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.
Energy decisions are influenced by environmental factors.
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5.6 Environmental factors.

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

  • Video and accompanying essay and discussion questions could be used in a single class period overview of the impacts of rising Arctic temperatures.
  • Very general resource but could be used to demonstrate the impact on indigenous cultures.

About the Science

  • Shows the current impacts of thawing permafrost on buildings and roads, lakes, riverbanks, and some wildlife including fish. For the most part, the information provided is anecdotal rather than based on comprehensive scientific studies. It does not discuss the science of climate change or permafrost thawing.
  • Video and accompanying background essay use the terms "thawing" and "melting" interchangeably. "Thawing" is the correct term for the temperature-induced change in permafrost.
  • Comments from expert scientist: I liked how people living in the changing permafrost environment were interviewed. This "first-hand", applied, observational perspective coupled nicely with the scientific explanation provided. As a stand alone module, a bit of background regarding why permafrost is there and the link between fossil fuel combustion and climate warming would be useful.

About the Pedagogy

  • Consists of a set of loosely-related interviews of Alaskan residents describing the impacts they see from rising Arctic temperatures.
  • Background essay and discussion questions provided.
  • An entire lesson plan - The Effects of Global Warming in Alaska can be accessed as well.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Video meant for smaller screen; pixelated when enlarged. Might be better downloaded.

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