Arctic Feedbacks: Not All Warming Is Equal

Arctic Feedbacks: Not All Warming Is Equal

The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world and due to a lack of observations, there is considerable uncertainty in climate models projecting the Arctic climate of the future. The MOSAiC expedition aims to better understand the changing Arctic climate system and improve future Arctic climate projections by freezing a ship in sea ice and drifting with the ice across the Arctic -- studying ocean, atmosphere, and sea ice processes.

Bring the unprecedented science and adventure of the MOSAiC expedition into your classrooms with Arctic Feedbacks, a curriculum tied to NGSS Earth’s Systems standards in which students explore parts of the Arctic climate system to understand why the Arctic might be warming twice as fast as the rest of the world, a phenomena known as Arctic amplification. Students will gather evidence to model and explain Arctic amplification by engaging with 360 degree virtual expeditions, authentic real-time Arctic datasets, and app-based labs.

Context for Use

“Arctic Feedbacks” is a middle/high school earth science unit focused on weather and climate as it relates to Earth’s system.  The unit is centered around an anchoring phenomena known as Arctic amplification and consists of ten unique lessons, each tied to the NGSS Earth’s systems standards. Each lesson provides students with evidence they will use to explain anchoring phenomena in a final descriptive model and written explanation. 

A graph of temperature anomalies.

Temperature anomalies calculated with respect to 1951-1980 based period. Data source: NOAA

Goals Header
Big Ideas

  • Earth’s climate system is dynamic and interconnected
  • Changes in one part of Earth’s climate system can cause unexpected changes in another
  • Not all warming is equal

Teaching Materials

Arctic Feedbacks: Not All Warming Is Equal - Unit Resources
Lesson 1: Eliciting Ideas About A Phenomenon
Lesson 2: Earth's Energy Budget
Lesson 3: Greenhouse Effect
Lesson 4: Arctic Fieldwork
Lesson 5: Model Revision
Lesson 6: Measuring Albedo
Lesson 7: Ice-Albedo Feedback
Lesson 8: Model Testing
Lesson 9: Building Consensus: Final Model Construction
Lesson 10: Final Explanation

Description

Lesson 1: Eliciting Ideas About A Phenomenon

In this lesson, students work in pairs to construct initial descriptive models and explanations for the unit driving question, “why is the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the world?”

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • Why should we care about the Arctic?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Define and describe the geography of the Arctic
    • Elicit student ideas why the Arctic might be warming twice as fast as the rest of the world.
  • Standards: 
    • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems & ESS2.D: Weather and Climate 

 

Lesson 2: Earth’s Energy Budget

In this lesson, students will identify and describe properties of the electromagnetic spectrum in the context of Earth’s energy budget.

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • How does Earth maintain the perfect balance of incoming and outgoing energy?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Identify and describe properties energy in the electromagnetic spectrum
    • Create a model that represents Earth’s energy budget
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

 

Lesson 3: Greenhouse Effect

In this lesson, students explore the relationship between shortwave/longwave energy and atmospheric gases through a simulation and predict how changes in greenhouse gas concentrations will affect global temperatures.

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • What characteristics define a greenhouse gas?
    • What is the greenhouse effect?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Identify and describe the relationship between shortwave/longwave energy and atmospheric gases
    • Describe the greenhouse effect using the following vocabulary terms: shortwave energy, longwave energy, greenhouse gases 
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

 

Lesson 4: Arctic Fieldwork

In this lesson, students visit MOSAiC field sites through virtual reality Google Expeditions and interact with actual shortwave and longwave energy datasets from the Arctic to understand how the Arctic energy budget has changed over time.

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • What scientific instruments are MOSAiC scientists using to study the changing Arctic climate system?
    • How has the amount of incoming shortwave energy and outgoing longwave energy changed over time?                 
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Identify patterns in shortwave and longwave energy over time.
    • Develop scientific questions related to shortwave and longwave energy datasets.
  • Standards: 
    • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

 

Lesson 5: Model Revision

In this lesson, students draw on concepts and evidence acquired during the unit to revise their initial models, constructing a new model for the phenomenon, “Why is the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the world?”

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • Why do scientists continue to gather evidence and revise models of phenomenon?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Reflect on learning by applying evidence gathered from previous lessons to revise initial models/explanations.
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

 

Lesson 6: Measuring Albedo  

In this lesson, students will use the “Albedo: A Reflectance App” to measure the reflectance (albedo) of different surfaces and come up with a rule to describe the relationship between the color of a surface and its albedo.

  • Driving Question(s):
    • What is the relationship between the color of a surface and its albedo?
    • What happens to energy that is not reflected by a surface?
    • How could a decline in sea ice affect the Arctic’s albedo and temperature?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Describe the relationship between the color and albedo
    • Describe the relationship between albedo and temperature
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems

 

 

Lesson 7 - Ice-Albedo Feedback

In this lesson, students analyze maps to calculate and compare changes in the Arctic’s albedo. 

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • What is a feedback loop?
    • How does a decline in sea ice lead to further melting of sea ice?
  • Learning Goal(s): 
    • Describe the ice-albedo feedback loop 
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems

 

Lesson 8: Model Testing

In this lesson, students will test their models by matching their ideas against real-world data about the phenomenon, Arctic amplification.

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • Can we use real-world data to confirm or refute our model/understanding of the unit driving question?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Identify and explain patterns in data
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems & ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

 

Lesson 9: Building Consensus - Final Model Construction

In this lesson, students draw on concepts and evidence acquired during the unit to construct final models for the unit driving question, “Why might the Arctic be warming twice as fast as the rest of the world?”

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • Why do scientists continue to gather evidence and revise models of phenomena?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Construct a final model that explains why the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the world
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems & ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

 

Lesson 10: Final Explanation

In this lesson, students work independently to write their final evidence-based explanations for the unit driving question,“Why is the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the world?

  • Driving Question(s): 
    • Why might the Arctic be warming twice as fast as the rest of the world?
  • Learning Goal(s):
    • Construct a written explanation for the unit driving question, why is the Arctic warming twice as fast as the rest of the world?
  • Standards:
    • ESS2.A: Earth Materials and Systems & ESS2.D: Weather and Climate

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