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Teachers’ notes | A Changing Climate

Learning objectives:

  • To be able to calculate land area
  • To develop thinking skills in interpreting seasonal changes
  • To foster listening skills to select and summarise key ideas and words
  • To relate signs of climate change in Antarctica with the possible impact of climate change globally
  • To gain an awareness of interdependence from the consequences of human activity

The Biggest Seasonal Change on Earth

The opening page of the multimedia version could be displayed on the Interactive Whiteboard to introduce students to the idea of Antarctica’s changing size from summer to winter. The soundtrack provides a bit of atmosphere. The follow-up activity, completed either online or on paper, uses a simple grid to estimate the changes in area in (million) square kilometres.

The Climate Today

Clearly the lack of precipitation makes it rather pointless to construct a climate graph, but like ‘living graphs’ this thinking skills activity encourages students to use and interpret the climate data in the context of scientists actually living in Antarctica.

The quotes are taken from diaries of residents at Rothera research station (2002-2005) in the following months:

There may be no trees here for leaves to fall off, but it’s getting colder and we are one step closer to winter. Those leaving soon are talking about the things they are going to do when they get home – have a pint of draught Guinness or go on holiday to a very hot, sunny place!

Days are now shorter, temperatures lower, snowfall heavier and most of the wildlife has bid us farewell for warmer climes.

It’s the shortest and darkest day of the year. Tonight, the twenty of us still here are going to celebrate the winter solstice with a big party. Skiing on the sea ice has been fun too – it is the closest thing to walking on water!

The solar panels and weather stations outside bang and clatter in the severe gales, so I haven’t got much sleep lately. Diving beneath the ice is one way to escape the wind, but once we’re back on the surface it doesn’t take long for the bitter cold to freeze moulding our dry suits to our bodies.

The weather is superb. Just imagine being here, sitting on the veranda, sun tan lotion and sunglasses on, watching seal pups playing together – how lucky are we!

The Climate of the Past

This is essentially a content-led activity to raise awareness of how ice core samples give insights into past climates and the human impact on Earth over time. The download Word version includes four questions to encourage students to think about what we can learn from the ice. Climate of the Past is useful background to the issue of climate change covered later in this section.

The Climate of the Future

This can be a reading and/or listening activity (using the sound file) to highlight some of the latest impacts of changes in Antarctica’s climate and their implications for the future.

The download, warning signs of climate change provides more detail on the issues and there is a link to the PBS website, Warning from the ice. The Water World page of the site features an excellent series of maps of future scenarios if Antarctica’s ice sheets melted.

Making Waves

This activity is designed to make the students think about how they can make a difference to climate change by acting locally and globally.