Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Module IX: Terrestrial Cryosphere

Couldn't resist putting in this Columbia Glacier picture of my husband's.  What a splendid element of the terrestrial cryosphere!  I'll talk a bit about the glacier in this week's blog.

Explain: What new learning have you taken from this module?
As always, this week's module brought a lot of new information and a review of information long buried in my memory to the forefront.  There was such a wide range of resources and information presented with a short amount of time to review it.  I'll just share a few that were relevant to my personal experiences in the state as well as topics I'm hoping to cover with students in the coming year.

One alarming new piece of information to me was from the YouTube video Burping Lakes.  I did know that methane and carbon dioxide are released from melting permafrost and lakes.  I didn't realize that the amount of carbon in permafrost is equal to the amount of carbon in the atmosphere.  Nor did I realize that the amount of methane that can come from melting lakes is equal to ten times the amount in the atmosphere already or that methane's effect as a greenhouse gas is 23 times stronger than carbon dioxide.  Scary thoughts.
The TD video Changing Arctic Landscape reminded me of insect infestations we have in the Clear/Anderson area.  Each spring, we get insects that everyone calls leaf miners.  Within two weeks of budding each spring every single aspen leaf has spiraled, white paths bored into them by these insects.  Another connection we experienced was increased wildfires.  Two summers ago our cabin was smack in the middle of raging fires.  Five miles to the west was the largest fire in the state and 7 miles to the east was a coal seam fire that evacuated a neighborhood just a few miles up the highway from us.  It's not hard to believe global warming threats are real when you live in the north.  

Another connection I made was to the TD video Earth's Cryosphere: Antarctica.  One fact from the video was that Antarctica contains 70% of the earth's fresh water but is one of the driest places on earth.  The interior of Alaska doesn't contain nearly this amount of water, but it is a dryer place than many would think.  Folks are always surprised that while we have snow all winter, braided streams, bogs and mosquitoes, the area is a subarctic desert.  People tend to think of hotter locations being dryer.

I didn't find lots of new resources to share this week as there were so many good ones listed already that I want to go back and explore in more depth.  We've had many good NOAA links included in our modules, but I did see one good link within it.  Their Global Warming FAQ page is a brief but good one if you're looking for some quick information and graphics.  It might be useful as a quick review or introduction to the broader topic of global warming.  At left is a a graph from the page showing that average snowfall has been decreasing in the past two decades.  Another good one to share with all is Annenberg Media.  They have many good, free video resources on their site for a variety of subject areas, including those quirky Spanish and French language video series many of us watched in high school.  Here's a link for their science resources which has a few videos series that look relevant to our course: Earth Revealed, The Habitable Planet, Planet Earth, etc. 

A really wonderful resource is GLOBE, Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment.  The program is a "worldwide hands-on, primary and secondary school-based science and education program. GLOBE's vision promotes and supports students, teachers and scientists to collaborate on inquiry-based investigations of the environment and the Earth system working in close partnership with NASA, NOAA and NSF Earth System Science Projects (ESSP's) in study and research about the dynamics of Earth's environment."

I'm not sure if you have to be a registered member in order to fully participate or how that process works but their websites has lots of relevant resources to use.  Their Classic Globe website has teacher guides, data sets that can be used to teach analysis, protocols, examples of current student projects, etc.  It's not the most intuitive website to navigate but is you search under the Teacher and Student tabs you're sure to find things you can use.  Their Elementary Globe page is a bit more user friendly.

Extend: How can/will you use this week's resources in your lessons?

This week's module contained a lot of resources that promote active rather than passive learning.  I really liked the TD Interactive Documenting Glacial Change.  It begins with asking students to view various photographs to observe changes in the landscape that glaciers leave behind.  Moving the slide bar on the images to see how they looked 60-100 years ago compared to today really shows the changes dramatically, see images at left.  These images are also good illustrations of the vegetation that crops up in a glacier's wake.  I can see linking this to albedo and it's effect on global warming.

I also really like the "Drop in the Bucket" and "Glacier Ice-Sea Level" activities where we estimated measurements and then checked USGS data to see how close those estimates were.  Any opportunity to get students active in their learning and checking their own understanding is wonderful.  In this vein, I'd also want students use the Nenana Ice Classic breakup log data to create graphs.  A similar activity is Nova's "What's Up With the Weather" in which students graph temperature data and learn about "the moving average".

Extend: How useful, insightful or relevant are this module's resources and information to you?

As we've been experiencing lots of windy weather this month, I found the National Snow and Ice Data Center's All About Snow section to be really relevant to students in Valdez.  One new term I learned on the site is sastrugi.  These are wind sculpted snow ridges that form when wind erodes and drifts the snow.  We have lots of those around here now. 

Another relevant resource to use locally is the Extreme Ice Survey layer for Google Earth.  I found some good images showing the Columbia Glacier's retreat over the course of a year.  There was also a video showing part of the glacier rising and falling with the tide.  A bit of info from the site that I didn't know is that " just 22 years ago, Columbia Glacier was 1,300 feet higher than it is today.  The loss is equivalent in height of the Empire State Building and has retreated 10 miles since 1984."  At right is an image of the Columbia Glacier from the Extreme Ice Survey layer.
One more Columbia Glacier shot from my husband.

3 Colleague's Blogs
Here are comments posted on others' blogs this week:

Lila's Thoughts on Integrating Ways of Knowing:  It's inspiring that you can give birth to a beautiful new baby and keep up with blogging.  Wow!  
You give a great summary of the information presented in this week's module.  I, too, was surprised to learn that Alaska pays $35 million a year in permafrost damage.  Thanks for the links for Antarctic research and for sharing the good links you found on Alaskool.

Winsore's Explore Alaska Blog: I love the Laura Ingalls Wilder hook on your blog.  I used to love those books, too.  I think I'm a teacher in part because of the influence of those books.  Thanks for the reminder about the stories on Alaska Native Knowledge Network and the reminder to use them, in addition to indigenous language place names, as a hook or connection to interest students.  

Explore Alaska:  I found the positive feedback loop information to be scary also.  So was the idea of triggers or thresholds that once met could precipitate massive accelerated climate change.  Yikes!  I'm also sorry to hear about the air pollution vote in Fairbanks.  I used to live south of Nenana so Fairbanks was our shopping hub.  I would dread going there in the winter as I would get an asthma attack every time I got out of my car from the exhaust, inversion layers and the cold combined. 

1 comment:

  1. Tell your husband great picture! I really liked your activity from NOVA "Whats Up With the Weather". I am going to use that with my students. I also really appreciate the comment that you made about active vs. passive learning. I really enjoyed this module and it is a great reminder as a teacher that we need to have active learning in our classrooms.