5.1 Students investigate climate change in polar regions using cryospheric (permafrost, sea ice, ice sheets) data records

Wednesday, 4 May 2011: 8:30 AM
Rooftop Ballroom (15th Floor) (Omni Parker House )
Marian H. Grogan, TERC, Cambridge, MA; and F. Fetterer, M. C. Serreze, D. Ivanova, J. Weber, H. Wilcox, and T. Ledley

The polar regions are particularly sensitive to changes in the climate system, and as such changes can be recognized there first. Scientists make use of this to help them develop and execute research programs that will deepen and expand our understanding of the climate system. The same cryospheric data collected by scientists can be a useful and reliable resource for helping students investigate and discover the manifestations and implications of global climate change.

TERC has developed a number of avenues to facilitate the use of cryospheric datasets in educational contexts. One of these is the Earth Exploration Toolbook (EET, http://serc.carleton.edu/eet).

The EET is an online resource comprised of “chapters”, each of which focuses on a specific Earth science dataset and data analysis tool. Chapters begin with a case study – often a story about a particular region of the world and a critical scientific or environmental issue. For example, in the chapter presented here, changes in the permafrost underlying a Siberian village prompt questions such as Why is the permafrost thawing? and Why is it important? In the context of this storyline, the chapter provides step-by-step instructions for accessing the data and analysis tool, putting the data into the tool, and conducting an analysis around the specific issue.

A number of EET chapters utilize cryospheric datasets. “Whither Arctic Sea Ice?” uses ~30 years of Arctic sea ice extent images and image processing software to study changes in sea ice extent. “Is Greenland Melting?” uses continental ice thickness data, ice melting extents and weather station data to examine the changes in the Greenland Ice Sheet. Other EET chapters that utilize cryospheric datasets include “Using NASA NEO and ImageJ to Explore the Role of Snow Cover in Shaping Climate” and “Envisioning Climate Change Using a Global Climate Model.”

The “ How Permanent is Permafrost?” chapter uses 50 years of Siberian borehole temperature and surface air temperature data to study trends in temperature changes above and below the Arctic surface. “How Permanent is Permafrost?” serves as an example of EET resources that help educators and students explore climate change in polar regions, to begin to understand that changes in polar regions have significant implications for the global climate change.

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