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The Ocean's Role in Weather and Climate

Arctic Ice and Climate Change!
The second of two Web Seminars about the Ocean's Role in Weather and Climate was held on Thursday, January 11, 2007, from 6:30 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. Eastern time. The presenter was Dr. Don Perovich, Research Geophysicist at the Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory in Hanover, New Hampshire. The seminar focused on how changes in climate affect the Arctic Sea Ice.

Participants answer a question from the presenter using their stamps

Eighty-one (81) participants were present in addition to the presenter and the NSTA staff. Participating educators represented the states of Arizona, Arkansas, California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Ohio, Oklahoma, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, South Carolina, Texas, Vermont, Virginia, and Wisconsin. Some of the participants attended the symposium on the same topic at the NSTA Area Conference in Baltimore.

In this presentation educators had the opportunity to learn about the effects of climate change on the Arctic sea ice. Dr. Perovich started the presentation talking about the temperature increase recorded around the globe over the last 100 years. This temperature increase has affected the Arctic sea ice in a couple of ways: melting of sea ice and decrease in the thickness of the ice. The sea ice extent, measured best using satellites, has decreased. In 1982 the sea ice area extent in the Arctic was approximately the size of the continental United States. However, by 2005, the sea ice area extent had decreased significantly. The decrease in area is comparable to the area of 22 states east of the Mississippi River. The ice thickness can be best measured using submarines. A comparison of the measurements of ice thickness taken between 1958-1976 and 1993-1997 shows that the average sea ice thickness has decrease by 40%, from 3 meters to less than 2 meters.

The graph shows that the Arctic sea ice is thinning

Dr. Perovich also talked about the amplifier effect of the sea ice's albedo on climate change. Albedo is a numerical value between zero (0) and one (1) that represents the amount of sunlight reflected by a material; in this case ice. For example, ice has a high albedo, but the ocean and land have a lower value. With the melting of sea ice taking place in the Arctic, the value of albedo for the region has decreased. This is a circular effect (amplifier effect) where the more sea ice melts, the lower the albedo value of the region becomes. The lower value of albedo increases the temperature of the planet. Dr. Perovich ended the presentation talking about the International Polar Year activities that will begin in March 2007 where scientists from all over the world will focus their efforts on learning more about the polar regions of the world. All participants received a copy of NSTA's SciGuide on 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:
  • "This was helpful especially to help with understanding how climate affects the Arctic."
  • "I found the information to be fascinating. I hope to use this with my students in the very near future."
  • "Excellent presentation and it was obvious that the presenter was very knowledgeable and passionate about his field of knowledge."
  • "Love getting the up to date research, it is easy to get isolated in the classroom. Connecting with researchers in the field is an honor and a great privilege. Also really appreciate how efficient these seminars are-- love the access to learning!"

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

Web Seminar II Resources


See a recorded version of the Web Seminar.

PowerPoint Presentation

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    PowerPoint Presentation (7.70 MB)
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