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Arctic Winters Are Slowly Warming


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Grades 2-up

News Content

Ice melting in the Arctic is impacting life there and in other places around the world.

Anticipation Guide

Write these words on a board or chart.

  • Northern Hemisphere
  • Arctic
  • North Pole
Ask students to identify those places on a world map.
  • The Northern Hemisphere is any place north of the equator.
  • The Arctic is Earths northernmost region. It includes the Arctic Ocean (which overlies the North Pole) and parts of Canada, Greenland (a territory of Denmark), Russia, the United States (Alaska), Iceland, Norway, Sweden, and Finland.
  • The North Pole is the northernmost spot on Earth.
Ask students what they think of when they think of the Arctic region. (Accept reasoned responses.)

Then ask what animals they think of when they think of the Arctic region. Among the animals students might mention are these, as listed in Wikipedia:

Herbivores of the tundra include the Arctic hare, lemming, and muskox. Arctic foxes and wolves prey on those species. The polar bear is also a predator, though it prefers to hunt for marine life from the ice. There are also many birds and marine species endemic to the colder regions. Other land animals include wolverines, ermines, and arctic ground squirrels. The reindeer, also known as the caribou when wild in North America, is an Arctic- and Subarctic-dwelling deer. Marine mammals include seals, walrus, and several species of cetacean -- baleen whales and also narwhals, killer whales and belugas. A narwhal is a medium-sized toothed whale, related to the beluga.

Note: Students sometimes mistake penguins as an Arctic species, but penguins are almost exclusively native to the Southern Hemisphere, especially Antarctica. They are not found in the Arctic.

News Words

Next, introduce these words that appear in the News Word Box on the students printable page: level, reflects, degrees, native, collapse, and depend . Discuss the meanings of any of those words that might be unfamiliar. Then ask students to use one of those words to complete each of these sentences:

  • The penguin is an animal that is _____ to Antarctica and other places in the Southern Hemisphere. (native)
  • A strong wind made it feel like the temperature was 10 _____ below zero. (degrees)
  • The light from a flashlight can be blinding when it _____ off a mirror. (reflects)
  • The _____ of noise from the boom box was so loud that I could feel the house shake! (level)
  • Many countries _____ on the United States for their food supply. (depend)
  • The weight of the snow and ice caused the stores roof to _____. (collapse)

    Read the News

    Click for a printable version of this weeks news story Arctic Winters Are Slowly Warming.

    Reading the News

    You might use a variety of approaches to reading the news:

    Read aloud the news story to students as they follow along.

    Students might first read the news story to themselves; then you might call on individual students to read sections of the news aloud for the class.

    Photocopy the news story onto a transparency and project it onto a screen. (Or use your classroom computer's projector to project the story.) Read the story aloud as a class, or ask students to take turns reading it.

    Arrange students into small groups. Each student in the group will read a paragraph of the story. As that student reads, others might underline important information or write notes in the margin of the story. After each student finishes reading, others in the group might say something -- a comment, a question, a clarification -- about the text.

    More Facts to Share

    You might share this image with students. The image shows Earth (looking southward from the North Pole). The shades of red indicate areas of Earth that were warmer than normal during the period 1965-1995. The blue areas were cooler than normal. This image only shows the 30-year period ending 1995, but the Arctic region has generally been warmer than normal during the 1995-2009 period too.

    You might share these additional facts with students after they have read this weeks news story.

  • Arctic temperatures in the 1990s reached their warmest level of any decade in at least 2,000 years, according to a report published recently in Science magazine.
  • Natural changes in Earth's orbit result in a cycle of warming and cooling of Arctic region temperatures, but scientists say that recent temperatures are warmer than normal even when those cycles are considered. The new report presents new evidence that the Arctic would be cooling if not for greenhouse gas emissions overpowering natural climate patterns. Summer temperatures in the Arctic by the year 2000 were about 1.4 degrees Celsius higher than would have been expected from the continued cyclical cooling alone, the study says.
  • If it hadn't been for the increase in human-produced greenhouse gases, summer temperatures in the Arctic should have cooled gradually over the last century," said Bette Otto-Bliesner, a National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) scientist who participated in the study.
  • It seems no matter where you look -- on the ground, in the air, or in the water -- we're seeing signs of rapid change," Eric Post, lead scientist of the new report, told CNN. Flora and fauna of the Arctic are responding in various ways to the region's changes in climate. In the past 20 to 30 years, sea ice coverage has declined by 17,000 square miles per year, added Post.
  • CNN reports that the last time scientists can say confidently that the Arctic was free of summertime ice was 125,000 years ago (according to the Web site of the National Snow and Ice Data Center in Boulder, Colorado). Climate scientists predict that there might be no Arctic sea ice during the summer beginning sometime between 2013 and 2040.
  • Between 1.5 trillion and 2 trillion tons of ice in Greenland, Antarctica, and Alaska have melted at an accelerating rate since 2003, according to NASA scientists. A few degrees of change [in temperature] contributes to sea level rise and changes in ocean current," NASA geophysicist Scott Luthcke told CNN.
  • The best estimates are that sea levels will rise about 18 to 36 inches by the end of the century, but because of what's going on and how fast things are changing, there's a lot of uncertainty," added NASAs Jay Zwally.

    Use the News

    Print out this weeks Use the News printable activity page for students. Or use the questions on that page to check student comprehension.

    Use the News: Answer Key
    Comprehension Check. 1. d, 2. b, 3. b, 4. c, 5. a.
    Vocabulary Builder. 1. d, 2. b, 3. a, 4. d.
    Main Idea. Ice melting in the Arctic can impact life there and in other places around the world.


    Use the Comprehension Check (above) as an assessment. Or have students work on their own (in their journals) or in their small groups to respond to the Think About the News question on the news story page.

    Lesson Plan Source

    Education World

    National Standards

    LANGUAGE ARTS: English
    GRADES K - 12
    NL-ENG.K-12.1 Reading for Perspective
    NL-ENG.K-12.2 Reading for Understanding
    NL-ENG.K-12.6 Applying Knowledge
    NL-ENG.K-12.7 Evaluating Data
    NL-ENG.K-12.11 Participating in Society
    NL-ENG.K-12.12 Applying Language Skills

    GRADES K - 4
    NS.K-4.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.K-4.2 Physical Science
    NS.K-4.3 Life Science
    NS.K-4.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.K-4.5 Science and Technology
    NS.K-4.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 5 - 8
    NS.5-8.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.5-8.2 Physical Science
    NS.5-8.3 Life Science
    NS.5-8.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.5-8.5 Science and Technology
    NS.5-8.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NS.9-12.1 Science as Inquiry
    NS.9-12.2 Physical Science
    NS.9-12.3 Life Science
    NS.9-12.4 Earth and Space Science
    NS.9-12.5 Science and Technology
    NS.9-12.6 Science in Personal and Social Perspectives

    GRADES K - 4
    NSS-C.K-4.5 Roles of the Citizen

    GRADES 5 - 8
    NSS-C.5-8.5 Roles of the Citizen
    GRADES 9 - 12
    NSS-C.9-12.5 Roles of the Citizen

    SOCIAL SCIENCES: Geography
    GRADES K - 12
    NSS-G.K-12.1 The World in Spatial Terms
    NSS-G.K-12.2 Places and Regions
    NSS-G.K-12.5 Environment and Society

    See recent news stories in Education Worlds News Story of the Week Archive.

    Article by Gary Hopkins
    Education World®
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