Climate And Sea Level: It’s In Our Hands Now

Monday, 15 December 2014
Robin E Bell, Margie Turrin and William B F Ryan, Lamont -Doherty Earth Observatory, Palisades, NY, United States
Changes in sea level are measurable on both a local and a global scale providing an accessible way to connect climate to education, yet engaging teachers and students with the complex science that is behind the change in sea level can be a challenge. Deciding how much should be included and just how it should be introduced in any single classroom subject area can be an obstacle for a teacher.

The Sea Level Rise Polar Explorer App developed through the PoLAR CCEP grant offers a guided tour through the many layers of science that impact sea level rise. This map-based data-rich app is framed around a series of questions that move the user through map layers with just the level of complexity they chose to explore. For a quick look teachers and students can review a 3 or 4 sentence introduction on how the given map links to sea level and then launch straight into the interactive touchable map. For a little more in depth look they can listen to (or read) a one-minute recorded background on the data displayed in the map prior to launching in. For those who want more in depth understanding they can click to a one page background piece on the topic with links to further visualizations, videos and data. Regardless of the level of complexity selected each map is composed of clickable data allowing the user to fully explore the science. The different options for diving in allow teachers to differentiate the learning for either the subject being taught or the user level of the student group.

The map layers also include a range of complexities. Basic questions like “What is sea level?” talk about shorelines, past sea levels and elevations beneath the sea. Questions like “Why does sea level change?” includes slightly more complex issues like the role of ocean temperature, and how that differs from ocean heat content. And what is the role of the warming atmosphere in sea level change? Questions about “What about sea level in the past?” can bring challenges for students who have difficulty with time scales, but sections on “Who is Vulnerable?” are very tangible to the students as they look at maps of population density, ocean island populations in danger of submersion, and what regions are most vulnerable to flooding. Teachers and students alike can explore a wealth of authentic science data in an engaging and accessible way.