Lesson Plans

Featured Phenomenon: Changes in Snow and Ice Extent

Featured Phenomenon: Changes in Snow and Ice Extent


Snow cover and ice extent are monitored by satellite instruments measuring the reflectance of Earth's surface in various wavelengths every day. Snow and ice have a recognizable pattern of reflectance, so the satellite data can be processed to show where snow and ice are present. 

Why is this important? The influence of sea ice on the Earth is not just regional; it’s global. The white surface reflects far more sunlight back to space than ocean water does. (In scientific terms, ice has a high albedo.) Once sea ice begins to melt, a self-reinforcing cycle often begins. As more ice melts and exposes more dark water, the water absorbs more sunlight. The sun-warmed water then melts more ice. Over several years, this positive feedback cycle (the ice-albedo feedback) can influence the global climate.

My NASA Data provides you with a variety of resources, helping you to uncover this phenomenon with your students.

Lesson Plans: