Mini Lesson

Changing Albedo and Sea Ice

Mini Lesson

What is Albedo?

This video explains albedo - the concept that the brightness of the Earth system (atmosphere, ocean, land surfaces) determines how much incoming solar energy is immediately reflected back to space. Reflected shortwave energy and land albedo products demonstrate the seasonal and geographic variability of this critical climate process. 

 

Discuss Sea Ice

  1. Show students the following video from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center.
  2. As the video showed, Arctic sea ice reaches its minimum each September. This graph shows the average monthly Arctic sea ice extent each September since 1979, derived from satellite observations. Answer the following questions about the graph. 
    Average Annual September Sea Ice Extent - Credit: NSIDC/NASA
    Average Annual September Sea Ice Extent - Credit: NSIDC/NASA

     

  3. Answer the following questions about the graph.

    1. Which year has had the lowest recorded Arctic sea ice? 
    2. Which year had the highest recorded Arctic sea ice? 
    3. What is the overall trend in the annual Arctic sea ice minimum?
    4. What factors might explain the trend in the annual Arctic sea ice minimum? 

The Link between Albedo and Sea Ice

 

Answer the following questions about the short animation.

  1. What do you notice about the areas of increased solar radiation?
  2. What do you notice about the areas of decreased sea ice?
  3. What is the connection between the two images?

Exit Ticket

Have students summarize the link between albedo and sea ice as an exit ticket.

Sources:

Teachers who are interested in receiving the answer key, please contact MND from your school email address at mynasadata@lists.nasa.gov.