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The Fragile Ice

Participants respond to one of the presenter's questions by stamping on the slide Weather Detective!
The first of two Web Seminars on the topic of Fragile Ice was held on Tuesday, January 16, 2007, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Mary Albert, Senior Research Engineer, at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire. The seminar focused on the clues to past weather that can be found on snow packs.


Fifty (50) participants were present in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arkansas, California, Colorado, Florida, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. Some of the participants attended the symposium on the same topic at the Area Conference in Salt Lake City, UT.


In this presentation educators had the opportunity to learn about the clues to past weather that can be found on snow packs. To understand these clues, one must first understand the changes that take place on the shape of snow crystals over time, after colder and warmer events. Dr. Albert started the presentation talking about snow crystals and the ways they change their shapes. The initial shape of snow crystals depends on the temperature and humidity of the atmosphere. Layers of snow on the ground are a combination of different depositional events and they provide evidence about different snow (or rain) storms. After the snow crystals are on the ground for some time, they change shape due to metamorphism. Some crystals get rounded after experiencing warmer conditions. Dr. Albert shared with the participants several images of snow crystals taken with an electron microscope over a period of time that show the rounding and changing shape of the crystals. After some time, snow crystals change their shape becoming more rounded and smooth


Dr. Albert finished the presentation showing data from a snow pack she studied found in the backyard of her house in Vermont. Her snow pack experiment was an excellent model for an activity teachers in cold regions of the country can replicate with their students in the classroom. At the end of the seminar all participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide about the Effects of Oceans on Weather and Climate, grades 9-12.


Here are some comments provided by the participants at the end of the Web Seminar:
  • "Snow is something that we have plenty of so I will be able to use it as a learning tool."
  • "I teach Earth Science, and meteorology is part of this. Snow behavior and its characteristics is quite relevant in my snowy home state of Wisconsin - this information is relevant to my students!"
  • "Some of my students are studying glaciers and the background information on ice crystal shapes will be quite useful."
  • "I can use this in my meteorology and geology classes. It was very helpful to find out about the sources available."

Thanks to the participants and the presenter for the learning opportunity, the interactions, and a job well done!


Web Seminar I Resources


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