Polar Sciences

Expand/Collapse Polar Sciences


Earth's polar regions may seem remote, but they are an integral part of the entire Earth system. For example, pollution from other areas affects Arctic and Antarctic ecosystems, and changes in the icy landscapes of the polar regions may influence global ocean circulation patterns and accelerate climate change. The fourth International Polar Year (IPY) was a 2007–2008 international campaign to advance polar science and better understand global climate change through an interdisciplinary approach. Learn about the importance of studying the poles through these media resources, adapted from a variety of sources. Explore the polar regions, the changes they are experiencing, and their connections to the rest of the world.

  • Tracking Polar Bears

    In this interactive activity adapted from the USGS Alaska Science Center, track the movements of a polar bear as it migrates across the changing Arctic sea ice and compare the paths of four different polar bears.
    Grades: K-8
  • Taking the Earth's Temperature

    This video segment from FRONTLINE/NOVA: "What's Up with the Weather?" depicts research efforts to record Earth's past and present temperatures shifts.

    Grades: 9-12
  • Polar Bears and Climate Change

    In this video from the World Wildlife Fund, learn how rising temperatures in the southern Arctic could lead to polar bear extinction.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Arctic Tundra

    This video segment from Wild Europe: "Wild Arctic" explores the struggle for survival in one of Earth's most extreme environments.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Global Warming: Graphs Tell the Story

    Examine these graphs from the NOVA/ FRONTLINE Web site to see dramatic increases in the temperature of Earth's surface and greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Earth System: Satellites

    This video segment adapted from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center shows how integral satellites are to everyday life and describes the different types, including orbital and geostationary.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Satellites Orbiting Earth

    This animation adapted from NASA shows the orbital paths of spacecraft in NASA's Earth Observing Fleet that are a source of wide-scale, primary research about Earth.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Mountain of Ice: If the Ice Melts

    This interactive from NOVA features a collection of images that show what would happen to selected coastlines around the world if the Antarctic Ice Sheet melted.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Climate Change

    This video segment adapted from NOVA explains the difference between weather and climate and features groundbreaking analysis revealing that Earth's climate has changed much faster than previously believed.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Arctic Climate Perspectives

    This video, adapted from material provided by the ECHO partners, describes how global climate change is affecting Barrow, Alaska.
    Grades: 6-9
  • Antarctic Ice: Sea Level Change

    What would happen if a portion of the Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt? This video segment from NOVA uses animations to show the effect of a 6-meter sea-level rise on coastal cities across the world.

    Grades: 6-12
  • Antarctica: Sea Ice

    This video from NOVA uses microwave images to reveal how sea ice doubles the size of Antarctica each winter. 

    Grades: K-12
  • Greenland Ice Sheet Project 2: A Record of Climate Change

    Using images and graphs, this interactive resource illustrates scientists' efforts to study Earth's climatic history for the last 250,000 years by drilling into the Greenland Ice Sheet and examining ice cores. Adapted from the Wright Center for Science Education, Tufts University.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Great Ocean Conveyor Belt: Part II

    A substantial increase in freshwater running into the northern Atlantic Ocean could dramatically affect climate and global ocean currents. This audio segment from National Public Radio presents viewpoints from scientists studying changes in ocean circulation.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Great Ocean Conveyor Belt: Part I

    This image from GRID-Arendal depicts the major circulation pattern of the ocean, illustrating interactions between temperature, salinity, and depth.
    Grades: 9-12
  • Global Water Distribution

    How much water on Earth is fresh water? How much of that fresh water is found in icecaps? Lakes? Rivers? This interactive resource uses bar graphs to illustrate the relative distribution of fresh and salt water on Earth. Adapted from Oxford University Press.
    Grades: 3-12
  • Glaciers

    Featuring images of glacier formations, this interactive resource adapted from the National Park Service explains what glaciers are, where they are found, how they form, and how they move.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Earth System: Ice and Global Warming

    This video segment adapted from NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center explains ice's role in the Earth system, highlighting the delicate balance that could be upset with a continued rise in temperature due to climate change.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Earth as a System

    This visualization adapted from NASA maps progressive global changes onto a rotating globe. Earth's atmosphere, hydrosphere, geosphere, and biosphere are shown to be dynamic and interconnected.
    Grades: 6-12
  • Antarctic Ice Movement: Part II

    Within Antarctic ice sheets are fast-moving streams of ice. This video from NOVA hypothesizes about how ice streams are the result of warming at the end of the last ice age.

    Grades: 6-12