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Inland Glaciers

Impacts—Inland Glaciers

Summary: As we have seen in other topic guides, the ocean stores solar radiation and its currents distribute heat to shape climate zones throughout the globe. Ocean processes affect not just coastal climates, but also temperature and precipitation far inland. In this topic guide, students learn about how changes in temperature and precipitation affect the ice mass of Cascade Range glaciers. They use data-based graphic representations of ice mass balance in the Cascade Range to see how glaciers are changing over time, and learn what impacts these changes have on inland environments.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Ecosystems far from the coastline are affected by ocean processes
  2. Oregon’s topography produces very different climate zones
  3. Increased temperatures result in loss of glacier ice mass
  4. Loss of glacier ice mass reduces water availability inland

Standards:

  • NGSS Performance Expectations
    • HS-LS2-6. Evaluate the claims, evidence, and reasoning that the complex interactions in ecosystems maintain relatively consistent numbers and types of organisms in stable conditions, but changing conditions may result in a new ecosystem.
    • HS-ESS2-2. Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
  • Ocean Literacy Principle 3: The ocean is a major influence on weather and climate

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Describe how prevailing air mass movement from the Pacific Ocean impacts weather and climate in Oregon’s interior regions
  2. Use graphs and visual representations from long term data sets to describe climate change trends

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Pre-reading:
    • G.R. Miller and H.M. Mogil, 2011. Weatherwise article. Oregon’s Weather and Climate: Wet, dry, hot and cold—Prevailing air mass movement from the Pacific Ocean impacts weather and climate in Oregon’s interior regions. This article explains how Oregon’s latitude, topography, and proximity to the ocean shape its diverse climate zones.
  • Visualization Tools:
    • How have glaciers in the Pacific Northwest changed over past decades? Graphic visualizations of glacier extent in the Cascade Range show changes in glacier mass.
      • Climate and Glacier Change—from Module 4 of The Virtual Glacier, Portland State University—Use this online simulation to see how a real glacier responds to variations in climate.
      • Glacier Rephotography of the American West—from Portland State University – Explore photographs that show glaciers changing over time at Oregon’s Mt. Hood and Sisters.
      • Timeline of Glacier Change from Mt. Rainier National Park—Explore changes over time at Washington’s Mt. Rainier.
  • Readings:
    • Articles about Oregon Glaciers. Although increased water from glacial melt may be beneficial in the short term, the retreat of glaciers could ultimately result in a decline in streamflow.
      • OSU Research on Collier’s Glacier: Oregon’s largest glacier in continued decline.
      • A.W. Nolan, et. al, 2010 articlePresent-day and future contributions of glacier runoff to summertime flows in a Pacific Northwest watershed: Implications for water resources
      • M. Milstein, 2008 Waterwatch articleA region’s vitality melting away. This article explores the impacts of Mt. Hood glacial melt on agriculture
    • Water Resources—impacts from climate change, summarized by the Oregon Climate Change Research Institute
    • The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework, 2010—Assessment of Very Likely and Likely risks associated with climate change, and short-term Action Items for addressing these risks
      • Extreme heat events (p. 15-19) Very likely
      • Reduced water availability (p. 20-25) Very likely
      • Wildfire (p. 26 -31)
      • Drought (p. 39-43)
      • Change in species distribution (p. 49-54)
      • Loss of wetland ecosystems (p. 62-69)
  • Climate Change Indicators Data:
    • EPA Climate Change Indicators in the US.—Observed long-term data trends related to the causes and effects of climate change, including:
    • U.S. Drought Monitor website—view national, regional, and state reports

Assessment:

  • How do studies of glacier mass balance help researchers understand climate change?
  • What climate conditions produce glacier mass loss?
  • How is glacier mass loss connected to ocean processes?
  • How is glacier mass loss expected to impact inland environments?