Climate Literacy Standards: Ice Caps and Sea Levels
2a. Earth’s climate is influenced by interactions involving the Sun, ocean, atmosphere, clouds, ice, land, and life. Climate varies by region as a result of local differences in these interactions.
2b. Covering 70% of Earth’s surface, the ocean exerts a major control on climate by dominating Earth’s energy and water cycles. It has the capacity to absorb large amounts of solar energy. Heat and water vapor are redistributed globally through density-driven ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. Changes in ocean circulation caused by tectonic movements or large influxes of fresh water from melting polar ice can lead to significant and even abrupt changes in climate, both locally and on global scales.
2e. Based on evidence from tree rings, other natural records, and scientific observations made around the world, Earth’s average temperature is now warmer than it has been for at least the past 1,300 years. Average temperatures have increased markedly in the past 50 years, especially in the North Polar Region.
7a. Melting of ice sheets and glaciers, combined with the thermal expansion of seawater as the oceans warm, is causing sea level to rise. Seawater is beginning to move onto low-lying land and to contaminate coastal fresh water sources and beginning to submerge coastal facilities and barrier islands. Sea-level rise increases the risk of damage to homes and buildings
from storm surges such as those that accompany hurricanes.
7b. Climate plays an important role in the global distribution of freshwater resources. Changing
precipitation patterns and temperature conditions will alter the distribution and availability of
freshwater resources, reducing reliable access to water for many people and their crops. Winter
snowpack and mountain glaciers that provide water for human use are declining as a result of global warming.