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Watching the ice

  • Key Stage 3
  • Popular Activity
  • Topical

Type: Activity
Learning Strategy: Communication
Topic: Atmospheric pollution

European Space Scientists have just decided to put an eye in the sky to see how fast the ice caps are really melting. It is going to be expensive and risky. A previous attempt cost �95m and ended in disaster. But a successful mission should at last yield reliable data on this key indicator of global warming. In this activity students get to speak up in favour of using government funds for big science projects. The activity also provides a good introduction to revision sessions on gravity and space, environmental chemistry or heating and cooling.

Published: 9th March 2006
Reviews & Comments: 0

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Learning objectives

Students will:
-know about a use of artificial satellites
-appreciate that scientists work together to collect information and make predictions
-recognise where data is not sufficiently strong to support conclusions
-use the particle model to associate heating with changes of state and expansion

Try the activity

You will need Acrobat Reader installed to open the activity sheets.

Gravity and space QCA 9J:
What keeps the planets and satellites in orbit?
Environmental Chemistry QCA 9G:
Is global warming happening?
Heating and Cooling QCA 8I:
How do materials change when they are heated and cooled?

Running the activity

Page 1 sets the context. The lack of reliable data makes it difficult to estimate the seriousness of global warming. Average temperatures are rising though, and the concentrations of greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are increasing. Most scientists think there's a connection. The worry is that global warming might accelerate. Only the ice sheets over Greenland and the Antarctic will contribute directly to a rise in sea level, because there is no land under the Arctic ice.
Page 2 introduces the Cryosat mission and the failed launch that wrecked Cryosat 1. The key point is that big science projects like this cost a lot of money and require international collaboration. How satellites stay in orbit, and the use of different orbits for different jobs, could also be discussed if appropriate.
Page 3 gets students to compare different media reports on the plans for Cryosat 2. Students are expected to write a justification for the project drawing on the ideas presented.

News links

A summary of the latest findings from each ice cap.
Stream or download a video talk from the European Space Agency Site covering:
Track 1: Are the polar ice caps melting?
Track 2: The influence of the ice
Track 3: A three-year mapping mission
Download a 22MB animation that explains what Cryosat will do.
Low resolution videos explaining Cryosat's role. These are not good enough to use with an interactive whiteboard but are an engaging source of information for individual use.
A useful summary on global warming.
Images of polar and geostationary orbits and examples of their use.

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