This series of activities introduce students to polar oceanography, polar climate and how events that occur in oceans thousands of kilometers away affect them and the mid-latitudes using maps, images, lab experiments and online data tools. Students explore how conditions are changing in the Polar Regions and the possible impacts upon life in the United States and other mid-latitude nations.
In this role-playing activity, learners are presented with a scenario in which they will determine whether the Gulf Stream is responsible for keeping Europe warm. They must also address the potential future of the Gulf Stream if polar ice were to continue melting. The students work in small groups to identify the issue, discuss the problem, and develop a problem statement. They are then asked what they need to know to solve the problem.
In this classroom activity, students access sea surface temperature and wind speed data from a NASA site, plot and compare data, draw conclusions about surface current and sea surface temperature, and link their gained understanding to concerns about global climate change.
In this activity, students research various topics about ocean health, e.g. overfishing, habitat destruction, invasive species, climate change, pollution, and ocean acidification. An optional extension activity has them creating an aquatic biosphere in a bottle experiment in which they can manipulate variables.
This well-designed experiment compares CO2 impacts on salt water and fresh water. In a short demonstration, students examine how distilled water (i.e., pure water without any dissolved ions or compounds) and seawater are affected differently by increasing carbon dioxide in the air.
In this activity, students model circulation in gyres, explore characteristics of gyres found around the world, and predict the climate impacts of changes to the circulation in these gyres and climate on adjacent land. Gyres, large systems of rotating ocean currents, play an important role in Earth's climate system.
This activity utilizes labs, online resources, and student ideas to build an understanding of polar climates, how changes in polar oceans can affect coastal climates, and how changes in polar regions affect climates elsewhere on Earth.
This video addresses acidification of the ocean and the ecological and economic implications of the resulting pH change on marine life. It includes information about how ocean acidification resulting from increased absorption of CO2 from the atmosphere is affecting ocean species such as sea urchins and oysters. Scientists from the University of California at Santa Barbara discuss their experiments with sea creatures in acidic sea water. There is an associated lesson plan and classroom activity that has students test the effects of CO2 on water pH.
This static image from NOAA's Pacific Marine Environmental Laboratory Carbon Program offers a visually compelling and scientifically sound image of the sea water carbonate chemistry process that leads to ocean acidification and impedes calcification.