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Ice Sheets In the Classroom

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By, Louise Huffman, Kate Pound & Robin Frisch-Gleason
(with help from the galley staff, McMurdo Station, Antarctica!)

Background:
Ice sheets cover almost all of East and West Antarctica, and most of Greenland. They are as much as 3 km thick. As snow accumulates, it gets buried and turns to ice. The ice flows out from the center of accumulation, and then moves across the landscape under the influence of gravity. The ice follows existing valleys and other low points; eventually it will cover the entire landscape; only the highest peaks might poke through the ice. The ice may also carve its own valleys. The ice may be blocked by mountains. If the ice reaches the ocean it floats on the water as an ice shelf.

Objectives:
To model how ice sheets build up at, and flow away from ice centers. To see how mountain ranges and valleys constrain the movement of ice.

Materials: per student or pair of students:
Clay [for continent]
Small plate, bowl or pan
Corn Starch mixed with a little water [for ice sheet]

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