Impacts—Coastal Hazards

Summary: Extreme weather events have significant impacts on coastal environments, and scientists look for patterns to determine how climate change is affecting the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Storm surges, high winds, and heavy precipitation can alter coastal physical environments, affect water quality, and result in coastal habitat loss. In this topic guide, students examine coastal water quality data collected around storm events, and predict the impacts of extreme weather events on coastal ecosystems.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Precipitation from intense coastal storms affects water quality in estuaries
  2. Sea level rise contributes to the coastal flooding and erosion seen with extreme storm events
  3. Extreme weather events can lead to loss of coastal habitat
  4. Understanding the effects of extreme weather events on coastal ecosystems can help scientists better predict climate change impacts

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.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Predict how major storm events affect NERRS reserves in the U.S.
  2. Investigate and interpret changes in water quality in an estuary due to a severe weather event.
  3. Determine the relationship between the characteristics of an extreme weather event (heavy wind, torrential rains and storm surge) and the subsequent change in water quality over time.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • See The New Waterfront topic guide
  • Readings:
    • The Oregon Climate Change Adaptation Framework, 2010—Assessment of Likely risks associated with climate change, and short-term Action Items for addressing these risks
      • Coastal erosion and flooding (p. 44-48)
      • Change in species distribution (p. 49-54)
      • Loss of wetland ecosystems (p. 62-69)
  • Activity: NOAA Estuaries—Earth Science Module Activity 4: Extreme Weather and Estuaries. This three-part lesson plan focuses on how hurricanes affect estuaries, and begins with a focus on a National Estuarine Research Reserve in North Carolina. Similarly, how might winter storms affect estuaries in the Pacific Northwest affect estuaries? Includes teacher guide and student worksheets.
    • Extension: Use System Wide Monitoring Program (SWMP) data from the South Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve to explore the effect winter storms have on that estuary system. What parameters would be most helpful to target?
  • Online activity: How do storms affect coastlines? Online activity exploring coastal changes using examples from hurricanes and El Niño events

Assessment:

  • REPORT: Assign each student or group of students a community on the Oregon coast. Students identify how an extreme weather event has in the past impacted that community. How is climate change predicted to affect future extreme weather events and their impacts in this community? Potential impacts may affect natural ecosystems, human activities, or both.

Science Concepts—ENSO and Climate Variability

Summary: A major source of climate variability in the Pacific Northwest comes from the El Niño / Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Although ENSO is defined by shifts in ocean currents and winds off the western coast of South America, the resulting changes in sea surface temperature (SST) affects our weather in Oregon. In El Niño years, an increase in SST leads to warmer winters and below average rainfall, snowpack, and streamflow in Oregon. As scientific understanding and forecasting of ENSO improves, communities can better plan for short term climate variability.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Oregon’s climate is affected by ocean processes centered at distant locations
  2. Complex factors combine to produce patterns of climate variability that can be predicted
  3. The relationship between ENSO and global climate change is not yet well understood

Standards:

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Describe the El Niño / Southern Oscillation and its affect on Oregon
  2. Use real-time data and forecasts to explain the effects of ENSO on the current year

Activity Links and Resources:

Assessment:

  • Search available resources to find out the forecast for ENSO for the current year. What evidence is used to support forecast predictions?
  • Can We Blame El Niño for Wild Weather includes questions at the end of each section
  • El Niño from NOAA Ocean Explorer includes online quizzes at the end of each section

Science Concepts—Ocean Circulation

Summary: Ocean currents redistribute heat around the world and affect the world’s climate. Thermohaline circulation (THC) is a system of both surface and deep currents that transports water through all ocean basins. Complex interactions between wind, the rotation of the earth, temperature and density drives ocean currents and affect weather and climate. In this topic guide, students learn about some of the driving factors behind ocean circulation, and use a model to describe how ocean circulation affects Earth’s climate.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. The ocean plays a major role in regulating the weather and climate of the planet
  2. Wind and rotation of the earth drive surface currents
  3. Temperature and density drive deep the global conveyor belt or Thermohaline Currents (THC)

Standards:

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Identify major ocean current systems and describe how they affect climate in various parts of the globe.
  2. Give an example of how sea surface temperature affects weather on land
  3. Describe factors that could disrupt the Global Conveyor Belt (THC).

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Ocean Conveyor Belt Kit from C-MORE—These hands on and computer based experiments introduce fundamental oceanography concepts. All the lesson plans and slide shows that come with these kits are available for download from the C-MORE website. Additionally, educators who are near a participating lending facility can check out a kit to use in the classroom.
    • Lesson One—Water Stratification
    • Lesson Two—Deep Ocean Circulation
    • Lesson Three—Using Data to Explore Ocean Processes
    • Lesson Four—Nutrients and Ocean Circulation
  • NOAA Multimedia Discovery Mission Lesson 8: Ocean Currents
    • The Video Lesson provides narrated animations describing surface currents and deep ocean currents, and the Global Impact sections describes how increased ice melt in the Arctic could slow deep ocean circulation.
  • Online image: Major Ocean Currents viewer from NOAA National Weather Service JetStream webpages

Assessment:

  • The C-MORE Ocean Conveyor Belt kit includes pre and post assessments

Science Concepts—Climate vs Weather

Summary: Sometimes people who are trying to understand climate change have asked the question, “How could the planet be warming given that it is so cold outside today?” Weather and climate are not the same thing. Weather is what’s happening outside your window; atmospheric conditions that you can see, feel or measure. In contrast, climate is an area’s long-term weather patterns, and understanding climate requires looking at data taken over a longer period of time. This topic guide contains activities and resources to help students better understand the the difference between weather and climate, and recognize that it takes time to compile a climate record. They then explore factors that influence local climate.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Climate is an area’s long term weather patterns; generally the record is at least 30 years.
  2. Single weather events represent only part of a climate record and don’t tell us if the climate is changing.
  3. Climate is affected by a variety of factors, including latitude, elevation, proximity to bodies of water and mountain ranges, etc.

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • HS-ESS3-5. Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Use climate data to determine how the temperature of the Earth has changed during a recent ~50 year period.
  2. Explore, analyze and interpret climate patterns of several different cities, and
  3. Analyze differences between weather and climate patterns.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Comparing Climate and Weather—This Power Point was created by educator LuAnn Dahlman from the NOAA Climate Program Office. It begins with a story of a personal observation and leads to interpretation of long term datasets. The presentation ends with a Climate? or Weather? quiz.
  • Activity: Investigating Weather and Climate with Google Earth from the Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University (Gr. 8) – This lesson plan includes a power point, kmz files, student guides, worksheets and implementation suggestions. Students use Google Earth to explore some factors that affect weather. They will use Google Earth to determine how latitude, elevation, proximity to bodies of water, and mountain ranges affect a location’s climate. They will also explore, analyze, and interpret weather patterns in 7 different U.S. cities.
  • Online activity: What factors control your local climate?—This online activity from McDougal-Littel’s textbook Exploring Earthinvites students to compare climate graphs from different cities and asks them to describe factors that influence climate.
  • Reading: Weather and Climate—EPA Climate Change Indicators in the US. Explore the headings to see how long term temperature and precipitation data are used to indicate climate change.
  • Video: Weather vs. Climate—The second video of the CoCoRaHS Educational Series in collaboration with NOAA and NSF. Learn about the differences in this fun video.

Assessment:

  • Comparing Climate and Weather Power Point: Climate? or Weather? quiz at the end
  • Describe the difference between weather and climate.
  • Compare and contrast the climate and weather patterns of 2 or more cities. What factors influence climate and weather in these cities?

Mitigation—Reduce Emissions

Summary: Global climate change is caused by the buildup of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere that come from human activities such as the burning of fossil fuels. An important solution to the problem of global climate change is for humans to significantly reduce the amount of carbon we emit into the atmosphere. In this topic guide, students examine the potential effects that reducing carbon emissions will have on affect atmospheric CO2 levels, and examine industrial-scale behavioral changes and technologies that can help communities reduce carbon emissions. See the middle school module for personal actions everyone can take.

Concepts to teach:

Crosscutting Concepts Disciplinary Core Ideas Science Practices
Stability and Change ESS3.C – Human Impacts on Earth Systems
ETS1.B – Developing Possible Solutions
Developing and Using Models,Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

Goals:

  1. Although the effects of climate change are already underway, reducing carbon emissions will make a difference to the rate and impact of climate change
  2. There exist both promising large-scale mechanisms within different sectors that could lead to a reduction in carbon emissions (urban planning, transportation, economic markets, etc)

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • HS-ESS2-4. Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
  • HS-ESS3-4. Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Interpret graphs and readings to describe the impact of reducing carbon emissions.
  2. Describe and evaluate a solution that aims to reduce the amount of carbon that human activities put into the atmosphere.

Activity Links and Resources:

Assessment:

  • Carbon Reduction Strategies Exploration Sheet from the Environmental Initiative at Lehigh University is designed to be completed after reading about Carbon Reduction Strategies.
  • Students conduct a literature search to prepare a report on a carbon reduction strategy that is being implemented or considered at the community, industrial or national level. Share findings with peers, and discuss student recommendations.
    • What are the costs and benefits to the proposed strategies?
    • Would students recommend one or more of the proposed strategies?
  • Discuss whether carbon trading is an effective mechanism for reducing carbon emissions. How would changing rules of the game influence the degree to which polluters are motivated to reduce their carbon emissions?
  • Students identify and evaluate one potentially viable local strategy to reduce emissions and present research and recommendations to the community.

Planning—The Flood Next Time

Summary: In what manner and to what extent are communities preparing for future climate-induced coastal flooding and erosion? Communities are slowly beginning to understand the problem, and are in process of deciding which entities are responsible for planning, implementing and supporting adaptation strategies. This topic guide focuses on some of the strategies that are being considered along the west coast of the U.S.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Barriers to adaptive planning for climate change include a lack of a sense of urgency about the issue.
  2. Leadership is an important component of coastal adaptation planning.
  3. Planning adaptive strategies to cope with climate change relies on participation and input from several segments of society.

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • HS-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Describe a planning action being taken in a coastal community in response to climate change.
  2. Identify factors that may motivate different stakeholders who might participate on a climate change community planning team.
  3. Engage the public in a community adaptation planning discussion.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Reading: Oregon Sea Grant’s Coastal Climate Change – Survey Results for Oregon 2012—This survey summarizes an assessment of attitudes, barriers and needs for Oregon coastal climate change adaptation plans.
  • See The New Waterfront topic guide to review the predicted impacts of climate change on specific coastal communities. How can stakeholders in these communities come together to address local concerns?
    • Discuss strategies for engaging the public about the need to take action on a local level. For example, the RISE: Climate Change and Coastal Communities media project seeks to engage the public through telling the stories of people who have been impacted by climate change.
    • Challenge students to create a communication product that engages various audiences and stakeholders (peers, public officials, etc)
  • Reading: Examples of planning resources from communities in the Pacific Northwest.
  • Additional Resources
    • See the Coastal Decision-Making topic guide for an activity about stakeholders
    • Activity: Participate in the King Tide Photo Project—Document impacts of coastal flooding during extreme high tides
    • Oregon Dike Maps—How will dikes be affected by sea level rise? This NOAA Digital Coast map resource helps land managers locate dikes and levees so they can make critical decisions about these human-made structures.

Assessment:

  • Students share with community stakeholders their presentation identifying a need for adaptation planning for a climate-affected coastal hazard.
  • Create a public service announcement, poster, infographic, or other engaging display that describes a community’s planning need for a specific climate-related concern.

Planning—Shoreline Structure

Summary: How do different types of shoreline react to flooding and sea level rise? In this topic guide, students learn about various “hard” and “soft” features of coastal shorelines, the role wetlands play to control flooding, and some engineering solutions for absorbing wave energy that could lead to coastal erosion. As a field experience, students examine characteristics of a shoreline and predict its resiliency to sea level rise. Finally, students are challenging to identify resilient engineering solutions that could be applied to shoreline structures.

Concepts to teach:

  • Crosscutting Concepts
    • Cause and Effect, Structure and Function
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas
    • ESS2.C – The roles of water in Earth’s surface processes
    • ESS3.A – Natural resources
    • ESS3.B – Natural hazards
  • Science Practices
    • Planning and carrying out investigations, Constructing explanations and designing solutions

Goals:

  1. Shoreline features vary in different places along coastlines, and are differentially impacted by sea level rise and storm surges.
  2. Soft shorelines absorb wave energy and water, and hard shorelines reflect or redirect wave energy and water.
  3. Coastal wetlands can help protect communities from damaging sea level rise and storm surges.
  4. Engineered shorelines can positively or negatively affect coastal resiliency.

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • HS-ESS2-5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.
  • HS-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Read and create maps to describe the shoreline features of a coastal area.
  2. Describe how different shoreline structures might respond to flooding and sea level rise.
  3. Identify the ecological services wetlands provide to control flooding and erosion.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Activity: Shoreline Survey field experience—Look at National ESI Shoreline database maps for a study site. Visit the site with students to survey and map hard and soft features of the coastal shoreline and compare it to the ESI maps. Based on the shoreline structures, ask students to forecast the impacts that rising sea level might have on the area.
    • National ESI Shoreline (Environmental Sensitivity Index) maps
    • Example Field Experience at Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport, OR
      • National ESI Shoreline screenshot for Yaquina Bay
      • Hatfield Marine Science Center Nature Trail mapping worksheet—Walk the HMSC Estuary Nature Trail and draw on the map different symbols and colors to indicate shoreline features. Create a key to the symbols and colors
      • Example of a completed map
  • Activity: Wetlands and their ecological services—in this Lesson 1.3 of the Bringing Wetlands to Market curriculum, students learn about the different types of wetlands and their ecological roles, and they identify one or more local wetlands.
  • The role of wetlands in coastal flooding
    • RISE Webstory 5: The Flood Next Time—Video (5:40) Converting salt ponds back to original wetlands could help a small community near San Francisco survive flooding from sea level rise
  • Reading
    • Shoreline Armoring: Pros and Cons—From NOAA’s State of the Coast website
    • Living Shorelines—This NOAA website shows how natural bank stabilization techniques are implemented to restore shorelines.
    • Coastal habitats shield people and property from sea level rise and storms
    • Komar, P.D. and Allan, J.C., 2010. USGS article “Design with Nature” strategies for shore protection –The construction of a cobble berm and artificial berm and artificial dune in an Oregon State Park

Assessment:

  • Map the hard and soft shoreline features of a coastal area. How many different shoreline types are there? Which features are natural and which are human-made? Is there evidence of existing coastal erosion or flooding?
  • Share survey findings with local land managers.

Impacts—The New Waterfront

Summary: Climate induced sea level rise can lead to erosion and flooding events that threaten natural and human communities, establish new coastlines, and change ecosystems. What are the predicted impacts of sea level rise for a given area on the Oregon coast?

Concepts to teach:

  • Crosscutting Concepts
    • Cause and Effect, Stability and Change
  • Disciplinary Core Ideas
    • LS2.C – Ecosystem Dynamics, Functioning, and Resilience
    • ESS3.B – Natural Hazards
  • Science Practices
    • Developing and using models, Constructing explanations and designing soluations, Engaging in argument from evidence

Goals:

  1. Sea level rise poses a threat to many coastal communities.
  2. Coastal hazard models use geographic, historic, and economic information to predict future impacts

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-ESS3-1. Construct an explanation based on evidence for how the availability of natural resources, occurrence of natural hazards, and changes in climate have influenced human activity

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Use topographic maps, sea level rise viewers and other online resources to obtain information about the risks, if any, that specific coastal communities face from erosion and/or flooding.
  2. Report whether impacts from coastal hazards have changed over time and/or are predicted to change in the future for a given community.
  3. Identify how climate change affects coastal hazard risks.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • Sea Level Rise—In this Lesson 4.1 from Waquoit Bay NERR’s Bringing Wetlands to Market curriculum , students are provided with topographic maps of a coastal area and are asked to draw new shorelines based on predicted sea level rise for that area. They then discuss implications for shoreline changes for that particular area.
  • NOAA Coastal Services Center’s Digital Coast is a resource that includes predicted sea level rise information around the globe, as well as Coastal County Snapshots that can help students asses impacts of sea level rise.
    • Sea Level Rise Viewer—NOAA Coastal Services Center displays potential future sea levels in an interactive map.
    • Coastal County Snapshots—Obtain a profile of a coastal county to find out its flood exposure, how it benefits from wetlands, and the extent to which its economy depends on the ocean.
  • Oregon King Tide Photo Project—Citizen photo-document the impacts of coastal flooding during extreme high tides. Check the Flickr page to see if there is a photo for your target community, or contribute your own photo to the dataset.

Assessment:

  • Students write or present an oral report about potential erosion and flood risks in a given coastal community, and whether/how climate change is predicted to impact these risks.
  • Prior to a coastal field trip, have students research the area and describe potential impacts of sea level rise on that area.
  • Participate in the King Tide Photo Project to document the degree of flooding during extreme high tide events.

Impacts—Melting Ice

Summary: One indicator of climate change is the increased melting of sea ice and glaciers on land. While many people hold a common misconception that the melting of sea ice will increase sea level, sea ice melting actually contributes very little to sea level rise. In contrast, melting land ice could contribute to sea level rise. In this activity, students conduct an experiment to demonstrate which masses of melting ice pose contribute most to sea level rise and why. Then they learn how the absence of ice promotes further melting through a positive feedback loop.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Increasing rates of melting ice on land and sea are an indicator of global climate change
  2. Melting land-based ice contributes to sea level rise, while melting sea ice does not
  3. Ice melt results in darker sea and land surfaces, which further absorb heat and cause a warming feedback loop

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • 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.
  • HS-ESS2-5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Describe the effects melting sea ice and land ice have (or do not have) on sea level.
  2. Demonstrate that ice is less dense than water.
  3. Demonstrate that ice displaces water equal to the mass of the ice.
  4. Describe the Albedo Climate Feedback Mechanism.

Activity Links and Resources:

Assessment:

  • Why do scientists track sea ice extent in the Arctic?
  • How will melting Arctic sea ice affect sea level?
  • How will melting glaciers and ice on Greenland and Antarctica affect sea level?
  • Discuss the implications the albedo feedback mechanism has on ice melt.

 

RETIRED LINK:

Science Concepts—Thermal Expansion

Summary: As the ocean’s temperature increases, its volume expands. In this topic guide, students use a model to demonstrate the relationship between water temperature and volume, and then use their findings to describe the impact a warming ocean has on sea level.

Concepts to teach:

Goals:

  1. Heated water has more volume than cooler water due to a process called thermal expansion.
  2. Thermal expansion is the primary cause of climate induced sea level rise.
  3. A model can demonstrate a scientific concept.

Standards: NGSS Performance Expectations

  • HS-ESS2-5. Plan and conduct an investigation of the properties of water and its effects on Earth materials and surface processes.

Specific Objectives:
Students will be able to:

  1. Demonstrate that heated water has more volume than cooler water due to a process called thermal expansion
  2. Explain how sea level rise results in part from thermal expansion.
  3. Use a model to demonstrate a scientific concept.

Activity Links and Resources:

  • COSEE’s Thermal Expansion and Sea Level Rise—In this experiment, students measure the relationship between water volume and water temperature. This activity can be performed as a demonstration, or at the high school level, in student groups.
  • EPA’s Sea Level: On the Rise, part I—Another lesson using the same activity.

Assessment:

  • What evidence exists to indicate that sea level is rising?
  • Why is measured and predicted sea level rise less dramatic on the Oregon coast compared to many other places on the globe?
  • How might a large earthquake along the Cascadia subduction zone impact sea level on the Oregon coast?