50 mins

Students make and evaluate predictions related to increases in global ocean temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification, using evidence from physical demonstrations. They then watch a video to identify the causes and consequences of climate change on the oceans.

DIRECTIONS

This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

Introduce the concept of sea level rise with a video and debrief discussion.

  • Distribute the Ocean Impacts handout.
  • Preview with students the two questions in Part A, Sea Level, before showing the video Global Climate Change Through the Lens of Changing Glaciers (6:52).
  • After viewing the video, solicit volunteers’ responses to the questions on the handout.
  • Transition to the next step by asking students:
      • Why might glaciers be melting in Iceland, where M. Jackson works? (Glaciers here and elsewhere are melting because Earth’s atmosphere is warming.)
      • Do you know of any other effects that carbon dioxide might be having on Earth’s oceans? (Students may or may not have prior knowledge of sea temperature rise or ocean acidification).

 

Support students as they read to understand the concept of ocean warming.

  • Distribute copies of the article Ocean Warming Explained to each student.
  • Support students as they read and annotate the article in pairs.
  • Ask students to respond to the questions in Part B of the Ocean Impacts handout, Sea Temperature, as a Think-Pair-Share.
  • Prompt students to reflect on the connections between the impacts in Part A and Part B by asking:
      • How might sea temperature rise contribute to sea level rise? (Sea temperature rise causes thermal expansion, in which water takes up more space as it heats.)

 

Initiate a physical demonstration to inform students' hypotheses about ocean acidification.

  • Ask: What are some sources of carbon dioxide in our atmosphere? (Students will likely name the burning of fossil fuels.)
  • Ask: What is the gas that you exhale in greater concentrations than you breathe in? (Carbon dioxide. Note that human breath is not a significant contributor to global warming, but it does have a higher percentage of carbon dioxide than the air we breathe in.)
  • Initiate a demonstration consisting of two clear-walled containers with identical amounts of water and a pH indicator (see Setup for more information on how to conduct this demonstration).
      • Explain that the color of the water comes from a chemical indicator that will show how acidic or basic the water is.
      • Water itself is roughly neutral. When it becomes more acidic (like lemon juice) or more basic (like bleach), the chemical indicator will change to one color or another. Write these color changes in a visible location. (The type of indicator you choose for this demonstration will determine the colors you mention and record here.)
      • Write the pH scale on the board with the colors of the indicator at different pH values noted for students.
  • Record the initial color of the water from both containers in the first row ("Prior to breath") of a chart similar to the one in Part C of the Ocean Impacts handout.
      • The colors of this initial reading should match, and indicate that the pH is around 7.
  • Ask students to make a prediction and record it in Part C of the Ocean Impacts handout:
      • What is your prediction for how the colors will compare after we breathe carbon dioxide into one container? (Students’ predictions may vary, but should include a statement regarding the relative colors of water in the two containers, and a justification based on their understanding of pH levels and how to interpret indicators.)
  • Request a volunteer to blow bubbles through a straw (preferably compostable!) into the "breath" container.
      • They may have to blow for a few seconds, but in less than a minute, the color should change. The color should not change in the "no breath" container if it is left undisturbed.
  • Chart the final colors in the "After breath" row, and discuss the complete demonstration with the class, asking students to answer the following questions:
      • How did the color in the "breath" container change as a student blew bubbles into it? Why did this happen? (The color changed from x to y when the student blew bubbles into it because the pH became more acidic.)
      • How do you think the oceans are changing as we add more and more carbon dioxide to the air? (The oceans are getting more acidic.)
      • Was your expectation about the colors from earlier correct? (Students' responses will vary, depending on their initial hypotheses.)
      • Have students reflect on their expectations and again note what they learned from this demonstration. Specifically, in response to the: How did the data prove or disprove your expectation? prompt in the Ocean Impacts handout.
      • Look for novel incorporation of information related to ocean acidification under global warming as students revise their understanding.

 

Support students as they identify causes and consequences of climate change on the oceans.

  • As a class, review the three main elements of climate change impacts on the oceans (sea level rise, sea temperature rise, and ocean acidification) and ask students to brainstorm together some possible consequences of these impacts.
  • Explain that the video Climate 101: Oceans (2:38) will illuminate these three phenomena in detail. Show the video and prompt students to take notes as they watch in Part D, Causes and Consequences, for the Ocean Impacts handout. 
  • Revisit the class Know and Need to Know chart, adding any new insights or questions regarding the impacts of climate change on the oceans.

Informal Assessment

Informally assess students’ developing understanding of sea level rise, sea temperature rise, and ocean acidification by examining their Ocean Impacts handout.

Extending the Learning

Step 3: If time is available, you may wish to involve students in preparation for the demonstrations of changing ocean conditions.

50 mins

Students record their expectations and observations of water properties using a physical demonstration. Next, they watch a video and read an article to label a simple model of thermohaline circulation. Finally, students predict how the movement of water in ocean currents via thermohaline circulation might contribute to or interact with global warming and climate change.

DIRECTIONS

This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

1. Initiate a physical demonstration to inform students’ initial hypotheses about ocean circulation.

  • Introduce a simple demonstration consisting of a tank/aquarium full of room temperature water, a capped bottle of cold salty water (labeled with blue food coloring), and a capped bottle of hot freshwater (labeled with red food coloring).
      • See the Setup section for more information on how to conduct this demonstration.
  • Explain to students the contents of the two bottles, distribute the Circulation of the Seas handout, and ask students to record their predictions for this demonstration in Part A:
      • What is your prediction for where the cold, salty blue water will flow when I uncap it sideways within the tank?
      • What is your prediction for where the hot, fresh red water will flow when I uncap it sideways within the tank? (Students' expectations may vary but should include a statement regarding the flow of this water, and a justification using prior knowledge.)
  • Uncap the bottles gently and prompt students to record their observations in the chart from Part B of the Circulation of the Seas handout.
  • Solicit volunteers' responses.
  • Ask students:
      • How might the phenomena you are observing here in this tank be relevant to the oceans? (Students' responses will vary, but listen for any connections between water flow in this demonstration and the flow of water from place to place within ocean basins.)

 

2. Use a video and article to introduce the relationship between water temperature, salinity, and ocean currents.            

  • Prompt students to begin Part C of the Circulation of the Seas handout as they watch the Ocean Currents and Climate video (2:33).
  • After watching the video, have students share their responses to check for initial understanding. Emphasize that the video only addresses one factor (temperature) that drives ocean circulation.
  • Then assign students to work in pairs to read and annotate the Ocean Currents and Climate article. Prompt students to identify additional factors influencing the density of water and record the information in Part C of the Circulation of the Seas handout.
  • Solicit volunteers’ responses to ensure that students have a comprehensive list of characteristics that:
      • Make water more dense/sink (low temperature and high salt content).
      • Make water less dense/rise (high temperature and low salt content).

 

3. Prompt students to predict the movement of water in ocean currents using a model of thermohaline circulation.

  • Introduce the concept of thermohaline circulation by first breaking down the origin of the term. Thermo refers to heat, and haline, to saltiness. 
  • In a Think-Pair-Share, ask students to complete Part D of their handout using their knowledge of how water behaves depending on temperature and salt content.
  • Review students’ responses by projecting the Ocean Conveyor Belt diagram, also shown on students’ handouts, and asking volunteers to choose the correct labels from each pair.
  • Students’ labeled diagrams should indicate that:
      • Near the poles, the temperature is cold. As ice forms, it forces out the salt crystals, so the water below the ice gets saltier, causing it to sink.
      • Near the equator, the temperature is warmer. Compared to the poles, the water is less salty and rises.  
  • Next, project The Global Conveyor Belt infographic showing a more detailed depiction of the process. Draw students’ attention to:
      • The cold, salty, deep current near the South Pole.
      • The warm, less salty, shallow current near the equator.
      • The direction of flow, indicated by the Ocean Water Flow inset graphic.
      • The locations where changes in the temperature and salt content of the water cause it to sink or rise, driving the currents around the globe (where the currents make sharp bends in the North Atlantic, Indian, and North Pacific oceans).
 

4. Lead a class discussion on the interactions of thermohaline circulation with effects of global warming and climate change.

  • Prompt students to revisit the causes of three main impacts on the world’s oceans in the Oceanic Impacts handout from the Oceanic Impacts activity:
  • Warming oceans
  • Rising sea levels
  • Ocean acidification
  • In a Think-Pair-Share format, ask students how thermohaline circulation might contribute to or interact with each of these processes.
  • (Listen for students' responses that incorporate the movement of water around the globe distributing the effects of global warming or climate change, for example by moving water warmed at the equator to the poles, where it might melt additional sea ice and raise sea levels).
  • Revisit the class Know and Need to Know chart to incorporate new insights regarding how thermohaline circulation drives ocean currents, and how these currents can interact with global warming and climate change impacts on the oceans.

Informal Assessment

Informally assess students’ understanding of thermohaline circulation and its role in ocean currents by examining their responses to the video, demonstration, and discussion in their Circulation of the Seas handout.

Extending the Learning

Step 3: For a more detailed dive into how ocean currents move water and objects around the world, students may complete the activity Mapping Ocean Currents.

50 mins

Students watch a video to identify and describe the effects of ocean acidification in detail. Next, they examine a graphical representation of ocean acidification data, summarizing the linear trends they see. Finally, students calculate the slope of these lines to quantitatively compare and contrast the strength and direction of these trends.

DIRECTIONS

This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

1. Show a video and prompt students to identify and describe in detail the effects of ocean acidification.

  • Ask students to revisit their Ocean Impacts handout from the Oceanic Impacts activity. Solicit volunteers to name the three important impacts of climate change on the world’s oceans:
      • Warmer oceans
      • Rising sea levels
      • Ocean acidification
  • Focusing on ocean acidification, prompt students to brainstorm as a class all of the marine organisms that they think might be affected by these impacts.
  • Project a video about the impact of ocean acidification on wildlife and ask volunteers to compare and contrast what they learned with the class brainstorm.
  • Assign students to add any new information on the causes and consequences of ocean acidification to Part 1: Causes and Part 2: Consequences of the Ocean Impactshandout.
2. Model and support students as they read and summarize linear trends using a graphical representation.
  • Project the NOAA Hawaii Carbon Dioxide Time-Series graph onto a writable surface (whiteboard or chart paper) and distribute copies to students, prompting them to identify the aspect of this data representation that they have seen before.
  • The Keeling Curve analyzed during Lesson 1: Carbon Concerns appears in red on this chart.
  • Distribute the Ocean Acidification Trends handout.
  • Using an I Do, We Do, You Do format, support students as they complete Part A of the handout:
      • Draw a trend line on the graph that passes through the data for the red line: Atmospheric Carbon Dioxide. (This is the Keeling Curve, with which students are already familiar.)
      • Complete the first row of this chart for the red line, "thinking out loud" as students observe your choices. Note that the trend summary can be created formulaically, using the information in the y-axis, Trend direction, and y-axis columns:
          • Variable & Identifier: red line = Atmospheric CO2
          • Y-axis (units): CO2 (ppm)
          • Trend Direction (increase/decrease): Increase
          • X-axis (units): Time (years)
          • Trend Summary: Carbon dioxide concentration has been increasing in the years since 1958.
      • Then use volunteers' contributions to complete the second row of this chart for the green line: Seawater pCO2. This line represents a measure of the amount of carbon dioxide in ocean water.
      • Finally, assign students in pairs to complete the final row of the chart for the blue line: Seawater pH.
  • In a Think-Pair-Share, prompt students to compare the three trends that they have examined, asking:
      • Do all three trends occur in the same direction?    
      • Which trend seems the strongest, and how do you know?
      • How can we use math to determine which trend is strongest?
      • Students' answers to these questions will help you gauge their prior knowledge of trends and slope, in preparation for the next step

3. Direct students to assess current rates of change in ocean acidification by analyzing current trends.

  • Use an I Do, We Do, You Do format to find the slope (m) of each line in the NOAA Hawaii Carbon Dioxide Time-Series graph, using Part B of the Ocean Acidification Trends handout (see Tip) to track your calculations.
  • Direct students to compare the values of m (which will differ slightly depending on which points were chosen) with the three lines on the chart, asking:
      • What is the difference between a positive and a negative slope? (A positive slope shows an increasing trend over time; a negative slope shows a decreasing trend over time.)
      • What is the difference between a small value for slope and a large value? (The larger the slope, the steeper the line.)
      • Which of these variables is changing most quickly over time? (Whichever variable has the steepest slope is changing the most quickly, regardless of whether the slope is positive or negative. This is likely the Keeling Curve (red line) in students’ calculations; the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere typically changes faster than the other variables that it affects.) 
      • How do these findings connect back to ocean acidification? (This data tells us that the ocean is indeed getting more acidic (pH is dropping) as carbon dioxide concentrations are rising.)
  • Revisit the class Know and Need to Know chart, recording any new nuances in students’ understanding of the impacts of ocean acidification.

Informal Assessment

Informally assess students’ understanding of ocean acidification from the details they add to their Ocean Impacts handout after watching the video. Assess their ability to summarize linear trends verbally and calculate slope with the Ocean Acidification Trends handout.

Extending the Learning

Collaboration with students’ math educators may help support and extend their learning as you work with linear trends and their equations in this lesson.

50 mins

Students watch a video to identify and describe the effects of sea temperature rise in detail. Next, they examine a graph of sea surface temperature data, verbally summarizing the linear trends they see. Finally, students use the slopes of these trends to predict future sea surface temperature changes from the digital dataset associated with this graph.

DIRECTIONS

This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

1. Show a video and prompt students to identify and describe in detail the effects of rising ocean temperatures.

  • Prompt students to revisit their Ocean Impacts handout from the Oceanic Impacts activity to review the three main effects of climate change on the oceans: ocean acidification (covered in the Ocean Acidification: The Evidence activity), sea temperature rise (the subject of this activity), and sea level rise. 
  • In a Think-Pair-Share, ask students to consider whether they think the marine organisms affected by ocean acidification are likely to be the same or different from those affected by rising ocean temperatures.
  • Explain to students that the Rising Ocean Temperatures are "Cooking" Coral Reefs video (2:52) will give greater detail on this impact. Assign students to add any new information on the causes and consequences of sea temperature rise to Part 1: Causes and Part 2: Consequences of the Ocean Impacts handout as they watch.
  • Project the video and then solicit volunteers’ responses.

 

2. Model and support students as they summarize linear trends in sea surface temperature using a digital data set.

  • Ask students to predict how they think the rate of change in sea surface temperature will compare to the rate of change in dissolved carbon dioxide or pH, based on the Ocean Acidification: The Evidence activity.
  • Project the EPA Climate Change Indicators: Sea Surface Temperature graph, and distribute a copy to each student.
  • In a Think-Pair-Share, ask students to respond to the following questions:
      • How would you describe the data trend on this graph? (Sea surface temperature has been increasing since about 1910.)
      • Is the slope (m) of this trend positive or negative? (The slope of this trend is positive because the line shows an increase in sea surface temperature, overall.)
      • What do you think the term anomaly means in the graph’s y-axis? (This term describes not the temperature itself, but how far above or below the temperature falls compared to the 1971-2000 average; see Tip.)
      • It may help students to reach this conclusion if you draw their attention to the 1971-2000 average, depicted as a horizontal dashed line on the chart.
  • Click on the spreadsheet link below the graph to project the sea surface temperature data set, prompting students to focus on the Year and Annual Anomaly columns only.
  • Distribute the Sea Temperature Trends handout to students. Using an I Do, We Do, You Do format, support students as they calculate slope digitally or by hand during three decades in this dataset (1880-1889, 1940-1959, and 2000-2009), as the class did in the Ocean Acidification: The Evidence activity. Prompt students to record their calculations in Part A of the handout.
      • Note that students are now using data directly, rather than interpreting from a graph (as in the Ocean Acidification: The Evidence activity). So, calculations from all students and the teacher should match in this activity. For example:
          • Decade: 1880-1889
          • Point 1 = (x1, y1): (1880,-.470)
          • Point 2 =  (x2, y2): (1889,-.472)
          • Rise  = y2-y1: .002 degrees
          • Run = x2-x1: 9 years
          • m = rise/run: .002/9 = 0.00022 degrees/year

 

3. Model and support students as they use the slope to predict future sea surface temperature from a digital data set.

  • Ask students:
      • How might the slope of a trend help us to predict the future?
  • Using an I Do, We Do, You Do format, support students as they calculate a prediction of the change in sea surface temperature. Use the same three decades of data from the previous step and prompt students to record their calculations in Part B of the Sea Temperature Trends handout.
      • For the first row, 1880-1889, rewrite the slope (m), calculated in Part A of the handout.
      • To predict the change in sea surface temperature over the next 100 years based on the decade of data between 1880 and 1889, multiply the slope (m) by 100.
          • Decade: 1880-1889
          • Slope = m: 0.00022 degrees/yr
          • Sea temperature change in 100 years = 100(m): 0.02 degrees/century
      • Calculate the prediction for the period from 1940-1949 alongside students.
      • Direct students to perform the calculations independently for the period from 2000-2009.
  • Project the EPA Climate Change Indicators: Sea Surface Temperature graph again and ask students to Think-Pair-Share in response to the following questions:
      • Which decade of data predicts the greatest temperature change in the next 100 years? (The decade 1940–1949 predicts the greatest temperature change because this was a decade of particularly rapid change (see Tip).)
      • Why do the three decades of data predict different temperature changes for the next 100 years? (The prediction for each decade depends on the slope. If the temperature happened to increase or decrease during this decade, it would predict a temperature change that matches this local trend within the overall global trend of increase. This is why these are predictions: they are not certain but are educated guesses based on the data.)
      • Which decade of data do you think makes the most accurate prediction of temperature change over the next 100 years? (2000–2009 makes the most accurate prediction, because it contains the most recent data, and because this decade matches those that came before and after it well (the trend in this decade is similar to the overall trend).)
  • Revisit the class Know and Need to Know chart, incorporating students' evolving understanding of sea temperature rise’s rate and impacts.

Informal Assessment

Informally assess students’ understanding of sea temperature rise from the details they add to their Ocean Impacts handout after watching the video. Assess their ability to calculate slope and future values of sea temperature using a linear equation with the Sea Temperature Trends handout.

Extending the Learning

Collaboration with students’ math educators may help to support and extend their learning as you work with linear trends and their equations in this lesson.

1 hr 15 mins

Students watch a video to identify and describe the effects of rising sea levels. Next, they use a graph of sea level data to predict future sea level changes. Finally, they write an evidence-based prediction to help non-scientists understand these changes and read articles to identify adaptation strategies for sea level rise. 

DIRECTIONS

This activity is part of the Climate Change Challenge unit.

1. Show a video and prompt students to identify and describe in detail the effects of sea level rise.

  • Ask students to recall information related to sea level rise, and brainstorm possible effects of this change:
      • Why is sea level rising in some places around the world?
      • In coastal cities or towns, how might the waterfront be affected if the sea level rose two feet?
      • How might businesses and homes be affected? (If your state is inland, it may help to pose this question in terms of rising water levels for a local body of water, then ask students to extrapolate for the ocean.)
  • Prompt students to revisit their Ocean Impacts handout from the Oceanic Impacts activity, identifying the three main effects of climate change on the oceans: ocean acidification, sea temperature rise (covered in Ocean Acidification: The Evidence and Sea Temperature: The Evidence respectively) and sea level rise (the subject of this activity).
  • Explain to students that the Sea Level Rise and Coastal Cities video (3:16) will give greater detail on this impact. Assign students to add any new information on the causes and consequences of ocean acidification to Part 1: Causes and Part 2: Consequences of the Ocean Impacts handout as they watch.
  • Project the video and then solicit volunteers’ responses.
  • In a Think-Pair-Share, ask students:
      • Do you think sea level rise in Miami is predicted to be high or low compared to other coastal cities in the United States? Why?

 

2. Prompt students to summarize linear trends in sea level using a digital data set.

  • Distribute the Sea Level Rise Trends handout to students. Project the NOAA Sea Level Trends from U.S. Stations map. Start by examining the key below the map, which clarifies the meaning of the arrows for each major coastal city. Ask students the following questions, writing volunteers’ answers in a visible location:
      • What does a red up arrow mean in terms of predicted sea level rise? (A red up arrow means the water is predicted to rise more than 9mm/year or 3 feet/century.)
      • What does a green up arrow mean? (A green up arrow means that the water is predicted to rise from just over 0 to 3 mm/year or 0 to 1 feet/century.)
      • What does a down arrow mean? (A down arrow means the sea is predicted actually to fall relative to the coastal land in this area. This is true for many cities in the far north, where melting glaciers actually allow the land to move up as their weight decreases. See Tip for more information.)
  •  Zoom in on Miami, the city featured in the video from Step 1. Click on the green arrow to review the precise sea level trend for this city: 2.39mm/year in the period from 1931–1981.
      • Point out to students that this is a measure of slope. For this reason, students do not need to calculate slope, as they did in the previous two activities. Prompt them to simply enter this value in the first row of the chart in Part A of their Sea Level Rise Trends handout.
  • As students observe, remind students how to calculate the predicted sea level rise in 100 years from this value, by multiplying the slope (2.39 mm/yr) by 100 years, if current rates remain unchanged.
      • City: Miami
      • Slope = m: 2.39 mm/yr
      • Sea level change in 100 years = 100 (m): 239 mm
  • Visualize this by marking, with tape on the wall, the height of water in Miami 100 years from now.
  • In pairs, have students look up an additional city to determine its recent sea level rise trend. Calculate the predicted sea level rise in 100 years, if current trends continue, with their partner. 
      • Encourage pairs to choose different cities from one another so a wide variety of sea level rise trends are represented.
  • Direct pairs of students to add to the visualization of sea level rise by marking their cities’ predicted changes on the classroom wall with tape.
  • End by supporting students as they reflect on these trends, asking:
      • Which cities have the highest predicted sea level rise? (Any cities with orange or red arrows from the original map will have high predicted sea level rise compared to those with green arrows).
  • How does Miami, which we know from the video will struggle with sea level rise, compare to the other cities represented here? (Miami has a low predicted sea level rise relative to many other U.S. cities.)

 

3. Model and support students as they graph linear trends in sea level and predict future sea level changes.

  • In an I Do, We Do, You Do format, beginning with Miami on the NOAA Sea Level Trends from U.S. Stations map, demonstrate and walk students through reading sea level data, creating a scatterplot, and adding a linear trendline (see Tip).
  • When students have finished creating a scatterplot for one of the cities of their choice (initiating their portfolio product for this lesson), assign them to write an evidence-based statement regarding sea level trends in this city. First, students should draft it using Part B of the Sea Level Trends handout. Then add it immediately below their digital graph of sea level rise to help non-scientists interpret the information.
      • For example, an evidence-based statement for Miami would be: Sea level is increasing in Miami, at a rate of 2.39 mm/year. In 100 years, the ocean there will rise 239 mm.

 

4. Direct students to examine strategies for adapting to the effects of sea level rise.

  • Ask students: What actions do you think humans can take to adapt to sea level rise?
  • In pairs, assign students to read and annotate one of two articles about adaptation in response to sea level rise:
  • When students have finished reading, assign pairs to create a list in Part C of their Sea Level Trends handout. Have students include all the strategies they discovered in the two articles involving the use of technology, specifically, to fight the effects of sea level rise. Emphasize that technology can be as simple as a park and as complicated as an underground structure to hold floodwaters.
  • Prompt pairs to choose at least three of these technologies the articles describe as effective and that they think will be particularly helpful to the city they focused on in the previous step. Direct students to record them below their evidence-based prediction and graph in their portfolio product.
  • Distribute the Changing Seas Rubric to pairs and assign them to self-assess their portfolio product (graph, evidence-based prediction, and adaptation technologies) using this tool. 
  • Allow students time to incorporate their findings from the rubric and ensure that each student saves a digital copy of their product, for assessment and for incorporation into their final project portfolio.
  • Revisit the class Know and Need to Know chart to incorporate any new knowledge of sea level rise or its consequences.    

Rubric

Formally assess students’ ability to graph linear trends from large datasets, to interpret trends in the data, and to explain adaptation technologies using the Changing Seas Rubric, to meet PE MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects.

Extending the Learning

Collaboration with students’ math educators may help to support and extend their learning as you work with linear trends and their equations in this lesson.

Subjects & Disciplines

Objectives

Students will:

  • Calculate slope with digital sea temperature data and use it to predict future changes in sea temperature.
  • Generate and evaluate predictions related to global warming and climate change’s impacts on oceans.
  • Identify causes and consequences of global warming and climate change on the oceans.
  • Describe the effects of sea level rise in detail.
  • Use the slope of sea level trends to make an evidence-based statement predicting future sea level change.
  • Identify the variables that drive thermohaline circulation.
  • Generate and evaluate predictions related to thermohaline circulation.
  • Predict movement of water in ocean currents using their understanding of thermohaline circulation.
  • Relate what they learn about thermohaline circulation to ocean temperature rises and acidification.
  • Identify technologies used to adapt to sea level rise.
  • Describe the effects of ocean acidification in detail.
  • Verbally summarize linear trends associated with ocean acidification.
  • Calculate slope using graphical representations of ocean acidification.
  • Describe the effects of sea temperature rise in detail.

Teaching Approach

  • Project-based learning

Teaching Methods

  • Demonstrations
  • Discussions
  • Inquiry
  • Lab procedures
  • Modeling
  • Multimedia instruction

Skills Summary

This lesson targets the following skills:

Connections to National Standards, Principles, and Practices

Common Core State Standards for English Language Arts & Literacy CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.RST.6-8.7: Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table). CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.SL.7.1: Engage effectively in a range of collaborative discussions (one-on-one, in groups, and teacher-led) with diverse partners on Grade 7 topics, texts, and issues, building on others' ideas and expressing their own clearly. CCSS.ELA-LITERACY.W.7.1: Write arguments to support claims with clear reasons and relevant evidence.Next Generation Science Standards Crosscutting Concept 2: Cause and Effect: Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems. Crosscutting Concept 4: Systems and system models Crosscutting Concept 7: Stability and change MS-ESS2-6: Develop and use a model to describe how unequal heating and rotation of the Earth cause patterns of atmospheric and oceanic circulation that determine regional climates. MS-ESS3-2: Analyze and interpret data on natural hazards to forecast future catastrophic events and inform the development of technologies to mitigate their effects. Science and Engineering Practice 2: Developing and using models Science and Engineering Practice 4: Analyzing and interpreting data Science and Engineering Practice 5: Using mathematics and computational thinking Science and Engineering Practice 6: Constructing explanations and designing solutions

What You’ll Need

Required Technology

  • Internet Access: Required
  • Internet access: Required
  • Tech Setup: 1 computer per classroom, 1 computer per pair, Color printer, Monitor/screen, Projector, Speakers

Physical Space

  • Classroom
  • Computer lab

Setup

Step 3: For the ocean acidification demonstration, you may wish to use bromothymol blue (a commercially available pH indicator) or red cabbage indicator (the water from ½ of a red cabbage head boiled for 1 minute in enough water to cover). If using bromothymol blue, place ~5 drops of this chemical into two cups with 25 mL of water in each. Label one cup "breath" and the other cup "no breath." As a volunteer blows bubbles through a straw into the "breath" container (remind them not to drink this!), the solution will slowly grow more acidic, turning from blue to green and then yellow. If using red cabbage indicator, similarly label one cup with 25mL of indicator "breath" and the other cup with 25mL of indicator "no breath." As a volunteer blows bubbles through a straw into the "breath" container, the solution will turn from bluish purple to pink. Volunteers may pause as needed during their bubble blowing, and the readings for both indicators should be taken after the solution stops changing color for approximately 20 seconds.

You may wish to prepare a digital copy of the data for Miami from the NOAA Sea Level Trends from U.S. Stations map ahead of time. It may be helpful to list the particular steps essential to completing Step 3 of this activity. This way, you can more easily model and walk students through these steps, as well as help scaffold their independent ability to graph sea level change data. 

Grouping

  • Large-group instruction
  • Large-group learning
  • Small-group learning
  • Small-group work

Accessibility Notes

  • None

Background Information

Climate change is having a variety of impacts on the world’s oceans. Globally, the sea level is rising, the ocean temperature is increasing, and the pH of ocean water is dropping, or becoming more acidic. Ultimately, climate change may cause disruptions to the ocean’s global currents, which are driven by a process called thermohaline circulation. Especially in combination, these effects can result in challenges to the Earth’s marine ecosystems, as well as danger to humans.

Prior Knowledge

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Recommended Prior Lessons

Vocabulary

carbon dioxide
Noun

greenhouse gas produced by animals during respiration and used by plants during photosynthesis. Carbon dioxide is also the byproduct of burning fossil fuels.

Noun

gradual changes in all the interconnected weather elements on our planet.

Noun

number of things of one kind in a given area.

Noun

increase in the average temperature of the Earth's air and oceans.

Keeling curve
Adjective

graph illustrating the amount of carbon dioxide (CO2) in Earth’s atmosphere as measured at the Mauna Loa Observatory in Hawaii.

ocean acidification
Noun

decrease in the ocean's pH levels, caused primarily by increased carbon dioxide. Ocean acidification threatens corals and shellfish.

Noun

system in which water moves between the cold depths and warm surface in oceans throughout the world. Also called thermohaline circulation.

pH
Noun

measure of a substance's acid or basic composition. Distilled water is neutral, a 7 on the pH scale. Acids are below 7, and bases are above.

salinity
Noun

saltiness.

Noun

base level for measuring elevations. Sea level is determined by measurements taken over a 19-year cycle.

Noun

increase in the average reach of the ocean. The current sea level rise is 1.8 millimeters (.07 inch) per year.

slope
Noun

slant, either upward or downward, from a straight or flat path.

Noun

degree of hotness or coldness measured by a thermometer with a numerical scale.

thermohaline circulation
Noun

ocean conveyor belt system in which water moves between the cold depths and warm surface in oceans throughout the world.