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Reflecting on What is Happening to Greenland's Ice

Becca Walker, Mt. San Antonio College, InTeGrate; SERC

In this activity, students consider Greenland reflectivity changes from 2000 to 2012 and what albedo anomalies may indicate about how the Greenland ice sheet is changing in a case study format.

Activity takes about 1-2 hours.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice

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

  • This activity is the first of two case studies in Unit 4 of the InTeGrate module "Climate of Change: Interactions and Feedbacks between Water, Air, and Ice". Both case studies examine changes in the Greenland ice sheet. The two case studies can be used independently or together, and there is an overarching teacher's guide that covers both case studies and provides additional background information https://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/teaching_materials/climate_change/unit4_cover.html.
  • Activity overview includes detailed teaching tips.

About the Science

  • This activity addresses changes in reflectivity, or albedo, of the Greenland ice sheet over time and elevation.
  • The explanation(s) for why albedo changes seasonally at different elevations will not be obvious to most students, and this gives students an opportunity to have interesting group discussions and create evidence-based arguments. The longitudinal analysis is also non-trivial.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    Overall excellent resource. Clear, concise, involves critical thinking - love it!
    - students analyze, compare and interpret real, scientific data
    - sketching a yearly albedo curve based solely on predictions from discussion
    - teaching that reflectivity anomaly = current reflectivity – long-term average reflectivity

About the Pedagogy

  • Students use albedo data from different elevations to determine changes in reflectivity from 2000 to 2012. Several themes guide students through this exercise and help to interpret the data. - How has albedo changed at different elevations? - What is the rate of change? - What mechanisms are contributing to the change?
  • Students do the data-analysis part of this activity small groups with each student looking at data from a different elevation zone. The groups of students then compare their findings, synthesize them, and proceed with the rest of the activity.
  • The activity includes suggestions for how to structure the activity and address common questions.
  • Assessment strategies and sample questions are provided.
  • Guided by a well-structured Student Handout and a PowerPoint presentation that includes both photographs and data plots, students predict, observe, analyze, and discuss variations in reflectivity over time and space.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • This activity is well thought out and carefully described. All of the materials are included and each step of the process is thoroughly documented. A shortened version of the activity is also included.
  • Unfortunately, link to original data plots (Ohio State, 2000-2012) is not functional as of review. Could probably be located via Jason Box's ice and climate blog "Meltfactor".

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Entire Curriculum: https://serc.carleton.edu/integrate/teaching_materials/climate_change/index.html

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-ESS2.A1:Earth’s systems, being dynamic and interacting, cause feedback effects that can increase or decrease the original changes.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2

Patterns, Stability and Change

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

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.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

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