Global Warming and Changing Sea Level
In the first part of this activity, students think about their personal carbon emissions and driving habits. They reflect on what might be done to reduce our carbon emissions, as individuals and as a society as a whole. In the second part of the activity, students calculate how much sea level would rise if a range of ice melting scenarios occur. They then examine topographic maps of local coastlines to see how different regions would be affected under the range of scenarios.
This activity is performed in an introductory undergraduate oceanography laboratory course. The lecture section is a pre-requisite or co-requisite. Most students are non-science majors and are taking the class to fulfill a science lab requirement.
Skills and concepts that students must have mastered
Students should understand the greenhouse effect and how it relates to global warming (so they understand the connection between rising carbon dioxide concentrations and climate change, and why rising carbon dioxide concentrations is a concern). Students also need to know how to read a topographic map.
How the activity is situated in the course
This activity is administered as a lab activity that is completed in a 2.5-hour section, but it could also be done in a lecture course as an in-class activity.
Content/concepts goals for this activity
The goal is help students relate subject matter (climate change) to their own lives (in leading students to calculate their own carbon emissions based on their driving habits and reflect on why their emissions are higher or lower than their peers, and in relating the sea level rise to consequences on local coasts).
Higher order thinking skills goals for this activity
Analyzing data and reading and interpreting topographic maps. Engaging in critical thinking about the consequences of sea level rise.
Other skills goals for this activity
In this activity, students work in small groups in a jigsaw fashion.
Description and Teaching Materials
The "Global Warming and Changing Sea Level" activity is attached as a file. The first part of this activity requires a calculator, as students calculate their carbon emissions based on their driving habits. As a homework assignment, students estimate the number of miles they drive per day and the fuel efficiency of their car. In class, they compute their emissions and compare their results with classmates. The second part of the activity requires a calculator and a selection of topographic-bathymetric maps from local coasts. Students work in small groups to calculate how much sea level would rise if a range of ice melting scenarios occur. They then examine topographic maps of local coastlines to see how different regions would be affected under the range of scenarios.
This activity is assessed based on in-class completion of the student handout (look for complete and thoughtful consideration of each question). There is also an online quiz that students complete in their own time by the following week to test their conceptual knowledge and understanding of the material.
References and Resources