The Gravity of Our Climate Situation
RiSC teachers are passionate about climate and resilience education. One particular example is middle school STEM teacher Sarah Slack of Brooklyn, who joined the RiSC program in 2019. In January 2020, Slack traveled to the southwest coast of Antarctica on a National Science Foundation icebreaking vessel as a PolarTREC selected teacher, to study the Thwaites Glacier.
Often referred to as “The Doomsday Glacier,” Thwaites is roughly the size of Florida and is melting rapidly due to record high air temperatures (65 degrees Fahrenheit on February 6, 2020) and incursions of warm water from below. If Thwaites melts, it will add approximately two feet to global sea level and open the door to a cascading series of changes to the West Antarctic Ice Shelf and to coastal communities around the world.
Understanding how and why this glacier is changing is of vital importance—which Slack is working to communicate to her students through daily blog posts on the PolarTREC website. “Everything I have learned in Antarctica has reinforced the need for students, educators, scientists, public servants—really, everyone—to pursue improving the resilience of our communities with great urgency,” writes Slack. “The ice is melting. You’re seeing it in the news there. Scientists are seeing it in their data and in reality here.”
In various posts, Sarah describes some of the technology used to collect information on Thwaites, how the amazing abilities of seals make them essential members of the data collection team, and what the changes to Thwaites mean to RiSC students and their communities in New York.
An excerpt from Sarah’s first-person account of her expedition to study Thwaites is below, and all of her journal posts can be found at www.polartrec.com/expeditions/thwaites-offshore-research.