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.
Webinar about teaching this module: Using Data to Teach About Societally Important Questions
For a majors-level module on climate change, please see Understanding Our Changing Climate: Data Behind Melting Ice and Changing Sea Level
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
- geological hazards
- global change
- Earth system science
Table of Contents
- Instructor Materials: Overview of the Ice Mass and Sea Level Changes Module
- Unit 1: Rising concerns over rising sea levels
- Unit 2: Temperature—a global trendsetter
- Unit 3: Warm with a chance of melting
- Unit 4: An uplifting story of sea level change
- Unit 5: Regional sea level changes—a tale of two cities
- Student Materials
- Instructor Stories
- Join the Community