Daily activity 52: Changes to Polar Ice Caps

June 2, 2020

This week’s theme:

Unsolved Mysteries – Climate Change

Fact of the day:

Temperature changes at the North and South poles affects what species can survive there.

Resources list:

Gloves, frozen icepack/peas, cold water; icecubes, 2 jars, cling film, elastic band, windowsill; 2 glasses, water, icecubes, lolly sticks, lamp; Youtube, newspaper; tube or pot, crafty materials, pens, plate, cotton wool.

Activity 1:

On a map, find where you think the Arctic (North) and Antarctic (South) are – this is where the polar ice regions are. The average Arctic winter temperature is -34°C brrrr!! Put on some gloves and hold some icepacks, frozen peas, or icecubes. Put your hands and/or feet in cold water for a little while to experience life at the poles.

Activity 2:

NASA has found that 2010-2019 was the hottest decade ever recorded, and that globally 2016 was the hottest year ever (closely followed by 2019). Such temperatures, caused by global warming, are causing polar ice regions to melt.

Try a heat and ice experiment. Take two large glass bottles or jars of the same size, place an ice cube in each jar. Cover one of the jar openings tight with clingfilm (or a recycled bag) with an elastic band.  Leave the other jar open. Place the jars on a sunny windowsill and keep observing the ice for changes. Which ice cube do you think will melt fastest in its sunny spot?

(The ice in the jar whose heat is trapped by the cling film (much like greenhouse gases causing global warming) should melt the quickest).

Activity 3:

There are 2 types of ice in polar regions, land ice and floating sea ice. It’s mostly the melting land ice that is causing sea levels to rise across the world.

Try another ice experiment. In 2 glasses place the exact same amount of ‘sea’ water. You could mark in felt tip on the outside of the glass where your sea level is to start with. Into one of the glasses of ‘sea water’ place an ice cube (this is floating sea ice, such as an iceberg). For the other glass suspend the ice cube out of the water, sit it on top of a couple of lollypop sticks laying over the mouth of the glass (this ice is ‘on land’ or glacial, but when it melts the water can dripple off the sticks and into the ‘sea’). Put both glasses under a lamp (the sun). After 10 minutes watching the ice melt, see which glass has the highest ‘sea level’ now.

If the experiment has gone to plan, you should be able to observe that the water level in the glass with suspended land ice has increased more than the glass with floating ice. This shows that land ice melts quickest and thus it’s melting land ice (such as the glaciers) that are the biggest worry we have when thinking about rising sea levels, and it’s those that we need to protect most.

Activity 4:

Try one more ice cube experiment. 80% of the sunlight that strikes the polar caps is reflected back out of our atmosphere. Without the ice caps, that amount of heat will be absorbed by our oceans and will cause ocean temperatures to rise.

Have 2 bowls, one with warm water and one with cold water – place an ice cube in each, which do you think will melt fastest?

(The ice cube in the warm water will melt quicker. If ocean temperatures get warm like this, not only will more of the polar ice caps melt, but animals that need cold water to live in will struggle too).

Activity 5:

Have a good dance to this week’s music playlist. When the 1st song stops, stand on a fully opened piece of newspaper which will represent a polar ice cap. When the next song starts, fold the newspaper in half to stand on at the end of the song. Keep doing this, and folding the newspaper in half each time. How many songs does it take before there is not enough room on the newspaper to stand on? The polar ice caps are melting like this due to a rise in temperature, and shrinking like this due to a rise in sea levels, meaning there’s less and less space for animals to stand and live on.

Activity 6:

Temperature changes at the poles affects what species can survive there, and it affects their habitats. This climate change is the single greatest threat to polar bears. This is because the sea ice they depend on to hunt and breed is melting away. Loss of sea-ice also threatens polar bears’ main prey, seals, which depend on sea-ice to raise their young and rest.

Make a polar bear from a toilet roll tube, yoghurt pot or paper cup.

Or, make a cotton wool polar bear on a plate.

Take photos and share your polar bears on our FacebookInstagram or Twitter or send it to melanie@purplepatcharts.org and we’ll put it online for you!

Activity 7:

In Antarctica, Emperor Penguins are classed as ‘near threatened’ on the extinction list. Climate change and warming oceans will reduce the Antarctic sea-ice, which will result in the loss of large areas of their breeding habitat.

Like all penguins they can’t fly, so waddle clumsily on land (see 1.20 mins in of this clip here) or slide along the ice; in water however, they glide and dive effortlessly. Try waddling like a penguin, and act out slipping and sliding on ice. Is your fancy footwork anything like this?