M u s e u m  C r e a t e d  L e s s o n

Ice and a Changing Climate

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Canadian Museum of Nature, Ottawa, Ontario

Learning about climate change
In this lesson, students will have the opportunity to explore geological and climactic changes over time in the Arctic and the effect climate has on a wide variety of factors. Through their exploration, students will develop an understanding of geological time scales and current climactic trends.

Lesson framework and materials:
- This lesson should cover 1 full class period for grade 10.
- Computer with internet access.
- A notebook to write down observations and reflections.
The Age of Climate Change
Canadian Museum of Nature
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The Continental Drift
Canadian Museum of Nature
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The Current Arctic Climate
A map showing an increase of air temperature by 12C.  Here the temperature is 4C.
This graphic shows the current air temperature in the Arctic and a legend showing a temperature range from 0C to 12C. Since the year 2000, the air temperature in various areas have risen in some locations by 2C and 4C.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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The Arctic Climate in 2050
A map showing an increase of air temperature by 12C.  Here the increase is shown to be by 10C.
This graphic shows the changes in climate that are anticipated in the Arctic and a legend ranging from 0C to 12C. By the year 2050, the air temperature in various areas will have risen in some locations between 2C and 10C.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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The Arctic Climate in 2090
A map showing an increase of air temperature by 12C.  Here the increase is shown to be 12C.
This graphic shows the changes in climate that are anticipated in the Arctic and a legend ranging from 0C to 12C. By the year 2090, the air temperature in various areas will have risen in some locations between 2C and 12C.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Arctic Sea Ice Cover in 2002
A map showing a large white mass of Arctic sea ice cover in the year 2002.
This graphic shows the location of sea ice in the Arctic in the year 2002. The large white mass depicts a large cover of the sea ice in much of the circumpolar Arctic.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Arctic Sea Ice Cover in 2025
A map showing a large white mass of Arctic sea ice cover in the year 2025.
This graphic shows the location of sea ice in the Arctic in the year 2025. The white mass depicts a noticeable decrease of sea ice in much of the circumpolar Arctic both near land and in the ocean.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Coronation Fiord
Large mountains beside a glacier in front of a body of water.
As with many glaciers around the world, Coronation Glacier is receding as the climate changes. This glacier has receded over 200 meters in the past 5 years.

HabitatSeven




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Walruses and Ice
A mother and child walrus laying on sea ice.
Sea ice provides walruses with a resting platform, access to offshore feeding areas, and seclusion from humans and predators. The constant motion of sea ice transports resting walruses over widely dispersed prey patches. Sea ice, therefore, is critical to the survival of the walrus as a species.

Students on Ice




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Anticipated Arctic Sea Ice Cover
A map showing a small white mass of Arctic sea ice cover in the year 2090.
This graphic shows the location of sea ice in the Arctic in the year 2090. The white mass depicts a significant decrease of sea ice in much of the circumpolar Arctic both near land and in the ocean.

Canadian Museum of Nature




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Melting permafrost
Permafrost surrounded by a grassy field.
The permafrost in Greenland is melting and its impacts are everywhere. Here, the banks of the river are collapsing at a rapid speed.

HabitatSeven




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The Jakobshavn Icefjord
Numerous glaciers in a large body of water with mountains in the background.
The Jakobshavn Icefjord is known as the iceberg factory of the Arctic due to the billions of tonnes of icebergs that calve off the Greenland Ice Cap and pass out of the fjord each year. The fjord is over 45 kilometres long. At the end of this fjord is the Jakobshavn Glacier which is an outlet glacier of Greenland Ice Cap, the second largest icecap in the world after Antarctica.

HabitatSeven




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Sediments
Large white icebergs sitting in a body of water.
The darker parts of this iceberg still have soil on them from when they were part of a glacier. As the ice moved towards the ocean, it picked up sedimentation from the ground as it scraped its way down a fjord.

HabitatSeven




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Polar bears and Ice
A polar bear standing on the side of a rocky mountain.
For the polar bear, sea ice means life or death. The polar bear uses sea ice for hunting. Polar bears need sea ice as a platform to reach the prey that sustains them: ringed and bearded seals. As the sea ice changes and disappears, their critical hunting habitat is destroyed, making it harder for polar bears to find and hunt their prey.

HabitatSeven




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Muskoxen and Climate Change
A group of muskox standing together on snowy terrain.
Muskoxen are found from the tree line to the northernmost arctic coasts. As climate change is expected to result in a rise in Arctic temperatures, it is widely believed that the tree line will slowly encroach into the North. This may eventually lead to a decrease in the tundra range the muskoxen need to survive.

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Suggested Activity
Have students think about the following:

Specific questions:

- What is climate change?
- What causes climate change?
- How are climate change and ice related?
- How does ice help shape the geology of the Arctic?
- How can studying ice and climate changes in the Arctic tell us about the future?

General questions:
- What interested you the most?
- What is one thing you would like to know more about?

Have students research the web to find current news articles (or TV/radio news story) which relates to climate change. Have them present this to the class.

Learning Objectives

Students will:

- Develop a general knowledge about climate change.

- Learn about the Arctic life being affected by the changing climate.

- Familiarize himself/herself with terminology related to climate change.

- Understand geological time scales.