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Brief Description: The warming trend in the Arctic is twice as large as the global average in recent decades. The loss of sea ice amplifies the warming trend because the ocean surface absorbs more sun heat than the surface of snow and ice. How does that affect the planet?
How does the lesson relate to STEAM education: Students learn about albedo and the melting sea ice positive feedback loop and the likely results of reduced snow and ice cover on global temperatures. The toolkit contains multidisciplinary concepts, like albedo (useful for Physics, Geography), feedback loops (useful for Biology, Chemistry and Geography) and demonstrates how some factors are affecting other factors in the environment and how they are inter-connected. The main emphasis is put on Science, but the toolkit contains tasks from Mathematics (calculation of sea ice extent differences), Engineering (by designing and performing the experiment) and encourages students to use Technology (by means of the online version of the toolkit and suggested ways of communication of their findings).
Age Range: 12-14, 14-16
Didactical Hours: minimum of 3 didactical hours of 45-min each (some experiments may require extra time outside classroom)
Learning objectives: The student will:
- understand how is albedo changing in case of melting sea ice
- formulate a hypothesis about global warming based on the melting sea ice positive feedback loop;
- set up a simple model to test his or her hypothesis;
- draw conclusions from his or her model;
- demonstrate an understanding of how reduced snow and ice cover in the Arctic may affect global temperatures.
Relation to the Big Ideas of Science:
Energy > Forms, Conservation of energy and energy transfer > Heat and thermodynamics: Students will learn that quantity of Sun energy absorbed by Earth depends on the type and colour of the surface absorbing it. Some surfaces, like snow and ice reflect back a lot of Sun radiation, whereas water absorbs almost all. When sea ice melts, more energy is absorbed.
Particles > Structure and properties of matter > States of matter: Students will learn that water in the solid state (ice) has different albedo than water in the liquid state. It determines how much of the solar radiation will be absorbed by the ocean covered by sea ice and free of ice.
Earth > Earth materials and structure > Earth’s Atmosphere: Sea ice reflects seven times more solar radiation than water in the ocean.
Earth > Earth materials and structure > Earth's materials and systems: Students will recognize that the mean temperature in the Arctic increases a few times (even up to 6 times) faster than mean temparature in other regions.
Earth > Earth materials and structure > Water on Earth: Students will learn that melting sea ice fosters warming of the Arctic and increase of mean temerature in this region.
Earth > Earth’s climate > Human impact on Earth: Students will learn that the Arctic is a region extremely sensitive to climate change, which occurs there more intensively. But what happens in the Arctic, affects also the rest of the globe.
Earth > Earth’s climate > Global climate change: Students will understand, that the changes taking place in the Arctic influence the weather patterns not only in the Arctic, but affect also the rest of the globe.
Earth > Earth’s climate > Weather and climate: Students will understand, that melting sea ice changes the way in which solar radiation is absorbed and causes changes in the weather patterns in the Arctic.
The Polar Star consortium is grateful for the input of the Polar Advisors, who helped to choose the polar topics. We would like to thank warmly Polar Advisors, who provided valuable ideas and materials for this particular activity: Stelios Anastassopoulos, Daniela Bunea, Svetla Mavrodieva, Spyros Meleetiadis, Nikolaos Nerantzis and Elena Vladescu.