InTeGrate Modules and Courses >Climate of Change > Unit 4: Slow and Steady?
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
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Unit 4 Slow and Steady?

Becca Walker, Mt. San Antonio College (rwalker@mtsac.edu)

This material was developed and reviewed through the InTeGrate curricular materials development process. This rigorous, structured process includes:

  • team-based development to ensure materials are appropriate across multiple educational settings.
  • multiple iterative reviews and feedback cycles through the course of material development with input to the authoring team from both project editors and an external assessment team.
  • real in-class testing of materials in at least 3 institutions with external review of student assessment data.
  • multiple reviews to ensure the materials meet the InTeGrate materials rubric which codifies best practices in curricular development, student assessment and pedagogic techniques.
  • review by external experts for accuracy of the science content.


This page first made public: Jun 24, 2014

Summary

In this unit, students make interpretations about how the Greenland ice sheet has changed during the past decade and consider the feasibility of predicting future changes. The activities involve examining reflectivity data and determining area changes for several marine-terminating outlet glaciers. The teaching collection here can be applied as a stand-alone day of instruction or as part of the complete Climate of Change InTeGrate Module.

Learning Goals

Unit 4 Teaching Objectives:

Unit 4 Learning Outcomes:

Context for Use

This unit is appropriate for introductory geology, oceanography, meteorology, and other geoscience courses but could also be used in non-geoscience courses where climate studies are being introduced. It can be easily adapted to serve small- or large-enrollment classes and can be implemented in lecture and lab settings. It can be used on its own as a pair of in-class activities (or an in-class activity and homework), as a longer lab exercise when combined with unit 5–systems@play, or as part of a multiday exploration of climate variability and climate change using the entire InTeGrate Climate of Change module. In the Climate of Change module, this unit follows Unit 3 on La Nina and NAO and precedes unit 5–systems@play. The case studies can be implemented individually or together, depending on the desired learning outcomes and time constraints. Case study 4.1 will work best as a small-group activity with class discussions/regrouping interspersed throughout the activity. Case Study 4.2 can be done individually or collaboratively and could be done during class or assigned as homework.

Description and Teaching Materials

Case Study 4.1- Reflecting on What Is Happening to Greenland's Ice

Case Study 4.2 - Predicting Rates of Change Using Greenland Outlet Glaciers

Teaching Notes and Tips

Case Study 4.1:

Case Study 4.2:

Assessment

Summative Assessment

(1) Your instructor has provided you with a blank grid with months of the year on the x-axis and albedo (low vs. high) on the y-axis.

(2) Which of the following sets of conditions should result in the highest ice sheet albedo?

A. summer, low elevation, exposed ice sheet
B. winter, high elevation, snow covering the ice sheet
C. summer, high elevation, snow covering the ice sheet
D. winter, low elevation, exposed ice sheet

Student Self-Assessment

At the end of this unit, ask students to take one minute and answer the following question: What did the data that you looked at today indicate about the climate system? This provides students with an opportunity to reflect on what they did in groups, and/or describe what they learned about Greenland. Surveying the responses can provide an instructor with an idea of what issue or misconceptions may need to be addressed in another class period.

References and Resources

Article: Greenland ice sheet getting darker from Ohio State University.
Article: Greenland ice sheet reflectivity at record low, particularly at high elevations from Ohio State University.
Google Earth file: Greenland Annual Surface Melt, 1979-2007 from the NSIDC. (KMZ file)
Earth Exploration Toolbook chapter: Is Greenland Melting? GIS activity from SERC's Earth Exploration Toolbook collection.
Article: Why Is iIt Hard to Predict the Future of Ice Sheets?–Vaughan, D.G., and Arthern, R., 2008, Science.

Videos and photos of glacier calving and retreat: Extreme Ice Survey
Byrd Polar Research Center: 2010 Petermann Glacier detachment and area loss survey results
NOAA Arctic Report Card for Greenland
Calculating rates from The Math You Need When You Need It
Article: Researchers Witness Overnight Breakup, Retreat of Greenland Glacier. Brief article from NASA about 2010 breakup of Jakobshavn glacier.
Petermann glacier breakup from Byrd Polar Research Center. Includes satellite images and graphical data of Petermann glacier area changes.

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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested modules and courses developed by InTeGrate. The materials engage students in understanding the earth system as it intertwines with key societal issues. The collection is freely available and ready to be adapted by undergraduate educators across a range of courses including: general education or majors courses in Earth-focused disciplines such as geoscience or environmental science, social science, engineering, and other sciences, as well as courses for interdisciplinary programs.
Explore the Collection »