Hydrosphere: Climate and Weather

Measuring Glacial Retreat

The USGS has been studying glaciers in Glacier National Park since 1850. It is estimated that there were 150 glaciers in the park back then, and when the national park was established in 1910. Today only 25 glaciers remain.

 Scientists go back every year to repeat photographs, as well as to examine the ice and the ecology of the landscape to see how glacial retreat is affecting plant and animal species that live there.

Ocean Acidification

The ocean is a “carbon sink,” which means that it removes CO2 (carbon dioxide) from the atmosphere. The ocean currently absorbs about one-third of the CO2 released by the burning of fossil fuels.

However, beyond a certain level of atmospheric CO2, the ocean can no longer act as a carbon sink without it having a negative impact on marine life. When CO2 dissolves in seawater, it leads to decreased pH levels. The ocean becomes less alkaline. This is referred to as ocean acidification.

Sky and Cloud Windows

In this activity, students will conduct experiments or participate in demonstrations to answer questions about sky and weather phenomena. Students also will analyze and present data.

Step by Step Weather Observations

As a citizen scientist, you can take your own air temperatures with an outdoor thermometer and compare your readings to the official ones from the National Weather Service. It is important that you follow the correct procedures, however, for placing your thermometer. This activity will help you to do that, as well as find out what the normal yearly average temperature is for each day.

What-a-Cycle

Water moves from Earth’s surface to the atmosphere and then returns to the surface. This process is nearly always depicted in water cycle diagrams by arrows drawn in a circular direction.

However, the actual path water may take in its cycle is far more complicated. In this activity, you will discover multiple cycles by acting as water molecules and traveling through parts of the overall water cycle. In the end, your water cycle will look nothing like the conceptual model but will represent a more realistic cycle.

Your Own El Nino

Every two to seven years, trade-winds in the Pacific Ocean slow down or reverse their direction — no one is sure why. But when the trade winds slow down, everything changes. Water temperatures become warmer in the eastern Pacific and colder in the west. Nutrient upwelling slows, and fish populations become much smaller along the Pacific coast of South America. Rainfall follows the warmer water, causing flooding in Peru and drought in Indonesia and Australia. Because these changes can be highly destructive, advance warning of El Niño’s approach is important for emergency preparation. NOAA satellites are constantly collecting information on sea surface temperatures around the globe. NOAA also operates a network of buoys that measure temperature, currents, and winds in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

Your Own Greenhouse

Climate scientists around the world study greenhouse gases and the ways they affect global climate. By making your own small greenhouse in this activity, you can recreate the greenhouse effect and measure its effect on temperature.

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