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Arctic Sea Ice Is Losing Its Bulwark

Cindy Starr, NASA Scientific Visualization Studio.

This visualization shows static and animated images of changes in Arctic sea ice 1984-2016.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Video supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 2 Cross Cutting Concepts, 1 Science and Engineering Practice
High School: 1 Science and Engineering Practice

Climate Literacy
About Teaching Climate Literacy

Global warming and especially arctic warming is recorded in natural geological and historic records
About Teaching Principle 4
Other materials addressing 4e
Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
About Teaching Principle 5
Other materials addressing 5b

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

  • Ask students to watch the animation and ask them to try to pick out periods of time where ice loss was the greatest.
  • Animated images could be paused for discussion.
  • Note the difference between land-based ice sheets, which do elevate sea level when they melt, vs. ocean-based ice packs, which do not raise sea level when they melt.

About the Science

  • Two visualizations and an animation show how Arctic sea ice has been growing and shrinking, spinning, melting in place, and drifting out of the Arctic for the past three decades.
  • NASA scientists explain the dynamics of ice melting in the Arctic and review the sources of data that were used to create the visualizations.
  • Of note - this is one of the few resources showing sea ice thickness in addition to extent.
  • Provides a description of why understanding the two main types of Arctic ice matters: old (more than 4 years old) ice vs. new (younger than 4 years old) ice are good indicators of overall ice pack reduction trends.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    - Great visualizations and tools
    - Clear numbers that really illustrate how significant the loss of ice is
    - Use of quotes is powerful
    - Links to more information

    - Optional, but could briefly explain how ice is dated (or provide another link)

About the Pedagogy

  • Text is small and somewhat difficult to read.
  • Visualization and animations are clear and easy to interpret.
  • The text is a little vocabulary-heavy and is not appropriate for middle school students.
  • Images and text are as they stand - no instructions for classroom use.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Easy for students to use but may not be so easy to follow the text.
  • High quality animation and graphics, including an interactive sliding 'before and after' window that allows focused study of specific polar areas.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Video supports:

Middle School

Cross Cutting Concepts: 2


MS-C1.2: Patterns in rates of change and other numerical relationships can provide information about natural and human designed systems

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

Science and Engineering Practices: 1

Analyzing and Interpreting Data

MS-P4.4:Analyze and interpret data to provide evidence for phenomena.

High School

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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