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Authors

Nick Bradford, The National Environmental Education Foundation (NEEF)

Grades

6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th

Subjects

Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Types

  • Articles and Websites
  • Charts, Graphs, and Tables

Regional Focus

North America, United States, USA - West

Disappearing Winter Snowpack

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Synopsis
  • This article explains how climate change has caused a decrease in snowpack in the western United States. 
  • Students will learn about the importance of snowpack to surrounding ecosystems, municipal water supplies, agriculture, and hydropower generation.

Teaching Tips

Positives:

  • This article analyzes the impacts of the reduced snowpack.
  • The data and images provided in the article are great visuals to have students interpret and discuss.

Additional Prerequisites:

  • Students should understand how hydropower works.

Differentiation:

  • Science classes could use this article during a unit on the water cycle. Students could identify the different sources of water for drinking, power generation, and recreation.
  • Teachers could ask students to think about the energy sources that are likely to replace hydropower if the snowpack continues to disappear. Students could discuss which of the alternative energy sources are sustainable.
  • Math or science classes could use the map showing trends in snowpack in the Western US to discuss percent change. Teachers should reinforce the fact that positive percent change is in blue and that negative percent change is in red and explain what this means for snowpack trends.
  • As an extension, have students use this interactive mapping tool to investigate changes in precipitation around the world and then come up with an action plan for adapting to this side effect of climate change.
Scientist Notes
Data showed a marked increase in natural gas usage in California (2012-2014), which raises a big concern to take immediate action to transition to clean-tech energy usage. The resource is recommended.
Standards
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS2: Earth’s Systems
      • 5-ESS2-2 Describe and graph the amounts and percentages of water and fresh water in various reservoirs to provide evidence about the distribution of water on Earth.
      • MS-ESS2-4 Develop a model to describe the cycling of water through Earth’s systems driven by energy from the sun and the force of gravity.
      • 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.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • 4-ESS3-1 Obtain and combine information to describe that energy and fuels are derived from natural resources and their uses affect the environment.
      • MS-ESS3-4 Construct an argument supported by evidence for how increases in human population and per-capita consumption of natural resources impact Earth’s systems.
      • MS-ESS3-5 Ask questions to clarify evidence of the factors that have caused the rise in global temperatures over the past century.
      • 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’s systems.
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