Climate Change, Wildlife and Wildlands: A Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators Page: 2
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* Coral reefs are a fragile ecosystem. Scientists who monitor ocean temperature have
noted a link between temperature and coral bleaching episodes. Coral bleaching is
caused by environmental stresses and results in corals ejecting zooxanthellae from their
polyps. Sometimes, small, localized bleaching events result from chemical spills,
sedimentation, and decreases in ocean salinity from heavy rains or flooding. Large
global instances of bleaching, called mass bleaching, appear to be caused primarily by
an increase in water temperature and calm sunny conditions. Even small temperature
increases, as little as a 1-degree Celsius above normal temperature range, over a period
of a week or more, can cause corals to expel their zooxanthellae. If conditions quickly
return to normal, the coral may recover. Unfortunately in the face of numerous other
threats, corals are often vulnerable and can die after extended periods of bleaching.
* In this lesson, students will be introduced to the bleaching phenomenon and gain
experience reading satellite sea surface temperature data. Tropical ocean temperatures
have increased 1 C (1.8F) over the past 100 years and are currently increasing at a
rate of 1-2C (1.8 - 3.6F) per century. It is likely that this global temperature increase is
due, in part, to the burning of coal, oil, and gas. Some of the images used in this lesson
are labeled "DHW," which stands for Degree Heating Weeks. One DHW is equal to one
week of a sea surface temperature > 1C (1.8F) above the expected summertime
maximum. Two DHWs are equal to two weeks at 10C (1.8F) or one week at 20C (3.6F)
above the expected summertime maximum temperature. A DHW of 4 or higher,
indicated in green, means that coral bleaching will occur in areas where there are coral
1. Preparation: At least one day before the lesson, prepare for the Coral Bleaching
Demonstration by filling a thick rubber glove with water and freezing it. Hanging the
glove upside down to freeze will create a flat base for the hand. Images in "Predicting
Peril" student worksheet are in color and will require a great deal of ink. Consider making
color transparencies or allowing students to link to the website
http://www.osdpd.noaa.qov/PSB/EPS/icg/wsub.7.31.1998.qif themselves to make their
2. Engagement: Ask students how they measure the temperature outside. (Place a
thermometer outside and read it.) Next, ask them how they would measure the water in
a swimming pool. (Put the thermometer in the water to get a reading.) Instruct students
to go to the website http://www.ametsoc.org/amsedu/dstreme/. They must scroll down to
"Satellite" and click "Infrared Surface Temperature Determination." Tell them that as they
move their mouse over different portions of the map, the temperature, latitude and
longitude of that of that particular location will be displayed. Ask the students how
scientists got this information. (Satellite data)
3. Exploration: Follow the directions to carry out the "Coral Bleaching" teacher
demonstration. Instruct students to answer the accompanying "Coral Bleaching" student
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U.S. Global Change Research Program. Climate Change, Wildlife and Wildlands: A Toolkit for Formal and Informal Educators, text, June 2009; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc29330/m1/2/: accessed November 19, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; .