GETSI Teaching Materials >Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes
GETSI's Earth-focused Modules for Undergraduate Classroom and Field Courses
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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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Summary

In this 2-3 week module, students interpret geodetic data from Greenland to assess spatial patterns and magnitudes of ice mass change and consider mechanisms and timescales for ice mass loss. They also investigate the relationship between ice mass change and global and regional sea level with an emphasis on the ongoing and future implications of sea level change on civilization. Materials for student reading and preparation exercises, in-class discussions, lab exercises, small group activities, gallery walks, and wall walks are provided, as well as teaching tips and suggestions for modifications for a variety of class formats.

Strengths of the Module

Students use a variety of authentic geodetic, ocean, atmosphere, and cryosphere data to qualitatively and quantitatively investigate how Greenland ice mass is changing and to assess the environmental and societal implications of ice mass and sea level changes. Students must grapple with the concepts of uncertainty, inconsistencies between different data sets, and nonlinear rates of change as they make predications about future ice mass changes.

Students explore scientific and societal aspects of sea level change as they complete the module. To encourage student consideration of sea level change on local, regional, and global scales, the module includes case studies of the impact of sea level change on Bangladesh, New York City, and southern California, and other domestic and international communities adapting to ongoing sea level changes.

Activities require peer interaction and instruction. Each module unit provides opportunities for small- and large-group discussions. Gallery and wall walks in Units 1, 4, and 5 encourage students to justify their opinions about controversial topics related to climate and sea level change adaptation. In Unit 3, students become familiar with different Greenland data sets (air temperature, snowmelt, ice velocity, and ice elevation) and must ultimately combine their individual data in groups to make predictions about ice mass changes in the study area. The quantitative exercises in Units 2, 3, and 4 are best implemented as lab or in-class exercises during which students work collaboratively to calculate rates of change for air temperature, sea level, GRACE, ice elevation, and bedrock GPS time series.

Great fit for introductory-level classes in:

  • environmental science
  • meteorology
  • geology
  • oceanography
  • geological hazards
  • global change
  • Earth system science

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 »