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Global Climate: Estimating How Much Sea Level Changes When Continental Ice Sheets Form

Paul Butler, The Evergreen State College, SERC Pedagogic Service Project

In this activity, students estimate the drop in sea level during glacial maxima, when ice and snow in high latitudes and altitudes resulted in lower sea levels. Students estimate the surface area of the world's oceans, use ice volume data to approximate how much sea levels dropped, and determine the sea-level rise that would occur if the remaining ice melted.

Activity will take about two to three hours.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Activity does not really point to original data source. Educator could email author for more info or find out current numbers by doing online research.
  • Educator would ideally use a group approach,in which students with solid math and Excel skills partner with less-skilled students.
  • Instructions in spreadsheet are not well laid out - rephrasing them on a worksheet might be more effective.

About the Content

  • Although this activity was created in 2008, concepts and procedures are still relevant and applicable.
  • Background reading material is not provided.
  • Comments from expert scientist: The objectives of this activity are important. Students need lots of practice making reasonable estimates and doing quantitative work, and I feel that this activity is a nice contribution towards those objectives. This is also a nice example of a global-scale issue, and I think students benefit from seeing that they can examine the very largest systems.

About the Pedagogy

  • Instructor version with answer key of the module is available by request.
  • Students work with quantitative data in Excel to problem-solve an engaging topic.
  • No concluding or thought-provoking questions are provided, but educator could easily come up with relevant questions. Assignment is simply based on the calculations.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Students will need a basic working knowledge of Excel; otherwise, an introduction to Excel is necessary.
Entered the Collection: July 2013 Last Reviewed: September 2016

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