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Annual Arctic Sea ice Minimum 1979-2015 with Area Graph

GSFC/Science Visualization Studio, NASA

This series of visualizations show the annual Arctic sea ice minimum from 1979 to 2015. The decrease in Arctic sea ice over time is shown in an animation and a graph plotted simultaneously, but can be parsed so that the change in sea ice area can be shown without the graph.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Animation supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 3 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 4 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Changes in climate is normal but varies over times/ space
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4d
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
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Our understanding of climate
About Teaching Climate Literacy
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Sea level rise and resulting impacts is due to melting ice and thermal expansion and increases the risk
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

  • Visualization can be used to introduce the value of long-term data sets.
  • If educator prefers to have students take data and draw the graph themselves, see http://nsidc.org/data/seaice_index/archives/image_select.html.
  • Educator can show students the visualization of the sea ice first, and then engage class to hypothesize whether it is increasing or decreasing. Graph can be shown on a separate overlay and students can hypothesize how the change is affecting the ecosystem.
  • It may be helpful to narrow students in on a particular location on the visualization - to help them see the differences over time.

About the Science

  • The continued significant reduction in the extent of the summer sea ice cover is a dramatic illustration of the pronounced impact increased global temperatures are having on the Arctic regions. There has also been a significant reduction in the relative amount of older, thicker ice. Satellite-based passive microwave images of the sea ice cover have provided a reliable tool for continuously monitoring changes in the extent of the Arctic ice cover since 1979 (microwave emission penetrates through clouds, and the signal is very different between open water and ice).
  • This method is used to learn how climate is affecting polar ice, specifically, the extent of the ice and how large an area is covered by ice.
  • This visualization shows ice extent in the background and ice area in the foreground.
  • Comment from expert scientist: The description of the animation could be confusing to those not familiar with the topic. Be sure to include the following points during introduction to students:
    1) Describe what is meant by sea ice concentration (i.e. that it tells you how much sea ice is in each satellite pixel, ranging from 0 to 100%).
    2) The satellite does not technically measure the ice concentration, but rather the brightness "temperature" that is converted to sea ice concentration.

About the Pedagogy

  • Animation can be downloaded in a variety of forms allowing an educator to infuse this into a lesson on Arctic climate changes.
  • The videos could be used in a class presentation or images can be presented on a worksheet.
  • Students should have an understanding of concepts of area vs. volume and concentration, what sea ice is and its importance.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy to use.
  • A number of different sizes and file formats are available for download. However, some of the files are large and take a long time to download, so the educator should download prior to the class. Simple and complex animation files are available and the variety of image types makes this a very customizable tool.
  • Difficult to see difference in color coding; might be useful to watch multiple times to better visualize and differentiate.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Animation supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 3

HS-ESS2.D1:The foundation for Earth’s global climate systems is the electromagnetic radiation from the sun, as well as its reflection, absorption, storage, and redistribution among the atmosphere, ocean, and land systems, and this energy’s re-radiation into space.

HS-ESS2.D4:Current models predict that, although future regional climate changes will be complex and varied, average global temperatures will continue to rise. The outcomes predicted by global climate models strongly depend on the amounts of human-generated greenhouse gases added to the atmosphere each year and by the ways in which these gases are absorbed by the ocean and biosphere.

HS-ESS2.E1:The many dynamic and delicate feedbacks between the biosphere and other Earth systems cause a continual co-evolution of Earth’s surface and the life that exists on it.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 4

Patterns, Cause and effect, Stability and Change

HS-C1.5:Empirical evidence is needed to identify patterns.

HS-C2.1:Empirical evidence is required to differentiate between cause and correlation and make claims about specific causes and effects.

HS-C7.2:Change and rates of change can be quantified and modeled over very short or very long periods of time. Some system changes are irreversible.

HS-C7.3:Feedback (negative or positive) can stabilize or destabilize a system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P4.2:Apply concepts of statistics and probability (including determining function fits to data, slope, intercept, and correlation coefficient for linear fits) to scientific and engineering questions and problems, using digital tools when feasible.

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