As a High School or Undergraduate Geography or Earth Sciences teacher, you can use this set of computer-based tools to teach about landforms. This lesson plan focuses on glaciers, glacier lakes and climate change induced glacier lake outburst floods (GLOFs).
Use this lesson plan to teach your students about the formation and characteristics of glaciers, types of glaciers, and the effect of climate change on glaciers. Global warming is causing glaciers to melt rapidly, resulting in larger volumes of water accumulating in glacier lakes. In time, these glacier lakes burst their morainic banks resulting in GLOFs that cause widespread damage downstream of the glaciers. Globally, there are many potential hotspots for GLOFs. This lesson plan includes resources to show how the Himalayan country of Bhutan has been affected by climate change induced GLOFs and their methods of adaptation to avert disaster.
Thus, the use of this lesson plan allows you to integrate the teaching of a climate science topic with a core topic in Geography or Earth Sciences.
Use this lesson plan to help your students find answers to:
- What are glaciers? How are they formed?
- Describe the components of a glacier.
- What are the different types of glaciers?
- How are glaciers affected by climate change?
- Describe the threat posed by GLOFs.
Climate Change-induced Risks from Glacial Lake Outburst Floods in Bhutan
Image(UNDP: Climate Change adaption)
Teacher contributed lesson plan by Tshering Wangchuk (Dechencholing Higher Secondary School) Sangay Jamtho (Lungtenzampa Middle Secondary School) Zangmo, Tshering Pelden, and Tashi Choden (Changzamtog Middle Secondary School) and Sonal Choden and Munna Tamang (Rinchen Higher Secondary School), Bhutan.
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About Lesson Plan
|Grade Level||High school, Undergraduate|
|Discipline||Geography, Earth Sciences|
|Topic(s) in Discipline||Glaciers, Glacial Landforms, Glacier Lakes, Moraine
Avalanches, Ice Shelves, Glacier Snouts, Snowmelt
Glacier Lake Outburst Floods (GLOFs), Ablation
Accumulation, End Moraine, Terminal Moraine
|Climate Topic||Climate and the Lithosphere, Climate and the Cryosphere
Climate and the Anthroposphere
|Location||Global, Peru, India, Bhutan|
|A basic introductory text to different types of landforms.|
|A resource that describes what glaciers are and explores many aspects of glaciers.|
|Video (~6 min)||A video that describes the danger posed by glacier lakes in Bhutan and shows how the country is coping with the threat of GLOFs due to climate change.
Go to the Video (up to 5.45 min)
|Classroom/Laboratory Activity (~15 min)
|A simulation tool to show the growth and shrinkage of glaciers with climate related variations in mountain snowfall and temperatures. This tool is available in several languages.|
Here is a step-by-step guide to using this lesson plan in the classroom/laboratory. We have suggested these steps as a possible plan of action. You may customize the lesson plan according to your preferences and requirements.
Step 1: Topic introduction and discussion (Go to the Reading)
- Use the reading, ‘Landforms’ by Southern Kings Consolidated School, Prince Edward Island, Canada, to define landforms, different types and characteristics.
- Use the links provided in the reading to introduce your students to landforms such as valleys, plateaus, mountains, plains, hills, loess, and glaciers.
- Click on ‘Games’ at the top of the page to enable your students to test their knowledge about basic physical features of the earth.
Step 2 : Discuss further (Go to the Reading)
- Use this reading, ‘All About Glaciers’ by National Snow & Ice Data Center, to teach your students about different aspects of glaciers.
- Use the tabs on the left side of the text box to navigate to different topics like how glaciers are formed, the components of a glacier, and the types of glaciers.
- Discuss with your students how glaciers affect people and what the dangers associated with them are.
- Finally, navigate to the section on ‘glaciers and climate change’ to explain to your students how warming temperatures have resulted in rapid melting of glaciers.
- Discuss how retreating glaciers have been documented using satellite imagery in various regions of the Himalayas, for example, the Gangotri Glacier.
- Explain how glacier lakes are formed due to meltwater from glaciers that gets accumulated behind fragile morainic banks at the snout of the glacier.
- Describe how increased snowmelt from glaciers greatly raises the level of accumulated water in glacial lakes, adding pressure to the morainic banks that are vulnerable to breaking down and causing GLOFs.
- Use the text to discuss the devastation caused by recent cases of GLOFs in Huaraz, Peru; Uttarakhand, India; and Lemthang Tsho, Bhutan.
Step 3 : Extend the understanding (Go to the Video)
- Use the video, ‘GEF -Bhutan: Silent Tsunami’ (up to 5.45 min) by Global Environment Facility to explain to your students the perceived threat of GLOFs for a largely mountainous Himalayan country like Bhutan.
- Use the tool to discuss past occurrences of GLOFs and the possible destruction of resources, infrastructure and livelihoods due to sudden GLOFs in the future.
- Use the video to discuss the urgent need for preemptive action against the buildup of glacier lake meltwater levels and explain how Bhutan has enlisted the help of international organizations to adapt to this need for action against the effects of climate change.
- Explain the disaster management strategies of installing early-warning systems like water-level sensors in remote glacial locations and the early release of water from the glacier lakes that show dangerous levels of snowmelt accumulation.
Step 4: Classroom/Laboratory Activity (Go to the Activity)
- Use this simulation, ‘Glaciers’ by PhET Interactive Simulations, University of Colorado, Boulder, to explore how environmental conditions such as temperature and precipitation affect the thickness, velocity and the glacial mass budget of glaciers.
- NOTE: This simulation is available in several languages.
- Encourage your students to vary these conditions and measure changes in the glacier using the instruments from the built-in toolbox.
- Use the in-built graphs to enable your students to visualize changes in glacier-length over time, the equilibrium line altitude against time, the glacial budget against elevation and air temperature against elevation.
- Use the sample learning goals to encourage discussion on the given points and enhance student understanding of the topic of impact of temperature and precipitation on the dynamics and nature of glaciers.
- Discuss how this is related to real-life scenarios of effect of climate change induced variations in global temperatures and precipitation patterns on glaciation globally.
Optional: Use the ‘Teacher-submitted Activities’ under the tab ‘For Teachers’ to explore more activities using this simulation. This will require a login/registration to access the teacher submitted activity plans.