Predicting Glacial Futures

This activity in a case study format explores ice loss from the Greenland ice sheet by way of outlet glaciers that flow into the ocean. Students do basic calculations and learn about data trends, rates of change, uncertainty, and predictions.

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Becca Walker
InTeGrate; SERC

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Teaching Tips

Teaching Tips

This is the second of two case studies that examine ice loss from 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 plus additional background information. [link

This activity would tie in nicely with the topic of sea level rise.

Noted from the resource:

It is important to discuss the different mechanisms by which ice loss occurs across the Greenland ice sheet.

The Extreme Ice Survey time-lapse video clips (links to these clips are in the Resources section) may be useful in conveying the magnitude of the Greenland ice sheet and its outlet glaciers.

Consider doing a quick calculation exercise for visualization purposes to get students thinking about a glacier's area in km2 (e.g. how many classrooms equal a km2).

Reinforce students' understanding, if their initial calculations and predictions do not "match" the measured data, by reviewing calculating rates of change and making predictions using a trend line, and/or discuss that uncertainty is inherent in making predictions about complex systems like the Greenland ice sheet.