GETSI Teaching Materials >Understanding Our Changing Climate: Data Behind Melting Ice and Changing Sea Level
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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. 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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Understanding Our Changing Climate: Data Behind Melting Ice and Changing Sea Level

Intermediate_Advanced Susan Kaspari (Central Washington University)
Bruce Douglas (Indiana University)
Editor: Beth Pratt-Sitaula (UNAVCO)
5 unit 2-3 weeks ITG image

Summary

Climate change is a defining challenge of the current age, and sea-level rise is one of the greatest effects. This module helps students to learn about primary stakeholders in sea-level change and explore a wide variety of climate-related data. The module opens with a stakeholder analysis for residents of a small island nation (Maldives), a coastal developing nation (Bangladesh), and a major coastal urban area (southern California). Students then gain considerable spreadsheet analysis skills through analyzing sea surface temperature, sea-level altimetry, GRACE, InSAR, and GPS data to better understand the factors influencing sea level, including thermal expansion, ice mass loss, and changes in land water storage. Students also consider how much more sea levels will rise this century. The final project is a report to a relevant stakeholder group that synthesizes the current knowledge.

Strengths of the Module

  • Stakeholder analysis from three different settings (Maldives, Bangladesh, and southern California) enables students to explore the large difference in impacts from sea-level rise depending on geographic and socioeconomic factors. This process helps put a "face" on how people will be affected as sea-level change progresses.
  • Students explore a wide range of geodetic data to examine the rate and causes of sea-level rise. These efforts result in a strong sense of how time-series data may be manipulated and analyzed.
  • Through data analysis, the students discover the causes of sea-level rise. The large role of thermal expansion in current sea-level rise is a surprise to many students.
  • Students find it empowering to know more about the ways changes in ice sheets, climate parameters, and sea level are measured. It helps move the issue away from politics and toward a more nuanced understanding of the complex system.

Great fit for majors-level classes in:

  • Cryosphere
  • Environmental Science
  • Earth System Science
  • Geosciences
  • Meteorology
  • Oceanography
  • Geological hazards
  • Global change

Instructor Stories: How this module was adapted
for use at three different institutions »



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This module is part of a growing collection of classroom-tested materials developed by GETSI. 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 »