Lesson plan 3: Glacier Simulator

Author

Josie Lino

Grades

High school students

Brief Description

Utilizing the interactive app Glacier Simulator provided by OGGM-Edu, students will learn how glaciers flow, grow, shrink, as well as what parameters influence glacier size, and more.

Objectives

Upon completion of this lesson, students will be able to:

  • Recite and understand words and their definitions, most notably: Equillibrium Line Altitude (ELA), accumulation area, and glacier-mass balance.

  • Describe the correlation between glacier top width and accumulation area, ELA and equilibrium glacier size, and glacier density and gradient.

  • Discover through scientific inquiry and analysis of visual data

Materials Needed
  • Computer with access to OGGM-Edu (possibly one computer per group of 2 or 3)

  • A writing utensil and paper

  • A teacher-computer to present slides to students

Lesson Plan
  • Use the OGGM-Edu provided Introduction to glaciers graphics to visually present the key concepts to students that will be reinforced with the interactive app. Allow students to take notes, but remind them these concepts will be reinforced in the interactive app. The AntarcticGlaciers: mass-balance webpage has information that could be used to verbally aid the instructor on the fundamentals or be used as a supplement for students.

  • Either provide short instructions on how to use Glacier Simulator, or allow students (in small groups or individually) to guide themselves through the beginner tutorial within the program. Afterwards leave an allotted time for student questions on how to use the app.

  • Either project on a board, or print out and pass, instructions that will guide students through the three self-contained inquiries. The instructions for the first inquiry are as follows:

    1. In beginner mode, set the ELA to 3000m a.s.l and note the equilibrium volume of the glacier, its length, and maximal thickness.

    2. Choose the “wider top” glacier shape and run the model again. Is the new glacier larger or smaller? Why do you think so?

  • Allow students to independently work through the first experiment and offer guidance when prompted or needed.

  • When all students are finished, or time commands, ask students for their answer to the questions posed in the last instruction. Emphasize the positive correlation between glacier top width and larger accumulation areas.

  • Allow students to independently work through the second inquiry and offer guidance when prompted or needed. The instructions follow:

    1. In beginner mode, set the ELA to 2500m a.s.l and note the equilibrium volume of the glacier, it’s length, and maximal thickness.

    2. Change the ELA up to 3500m a.s.l in 200m increments and record, at every increment, the equilibrium volume of the glacier, it’s length, and maximal thickness.

    3. Draw these variables on a graph, as a function of the ELA. How does glacier volume change with ELA? Can you explain why? What about glacier length and thickness? Are these changes linear, or more complex?

  • When all students are finished, or time commands, ask students to either present their graphs, or create your own graph with student input. Highlight the nonlinear relationships between ELA and length, volume, and maximal thickness. Emphasize the negative relationship between ELA and equilibrium glacier size.

  • Quickly introduce students to the concept of glacier flow. The AntarcticGlaciers: glacier flow webpage can be used as an aid. For a visual representation of the gravitational force, present to students the free body on an inclined plane illustration. Allow students to independently work for an allotted period of time and follow the instructions:

    1. Use beginner mode with standard settings (constant width, mass balance gradient of 4 and ELA of 3000) and run the model with each setting for the slope and use the geometry plot for inspection. Take notes on a piece of paper of the ice thickness, volume, area and length at the end of each model run.

    2. Using your analytical skills, answer the following questions. Which glaciers are thicker: steep or thin ones? Why?

  • When all students are finished, or time commands, ask students for their answer to the questions posed in the last instruction. Correct students on their mistakes, and allow students to reiterate the concept that the steeper the slope, the thinner the glacier.

  • Use the remainder of the lesson to answer any questions students may have. Direct them to the supplementary sources listed in this document for further investigation or reinforcement of concepts.


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