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December 22, 2021

Melting of Massive Antarctica Ice Shelf Could Rewrite Global Coastline

Ask students: What is the Thwaites glacier and where is it? Why are scientists alarmed about the rapid melt of the Thwaites glacier?


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A warming atmosphere is creating concern in the Arctic Circle and on the continent of Antarctica. The Arctic Report Card shows high temperatures, shrinking sea ice and extreme melting events are transforming the region. At the opposite pole, in Antarctica, a key ice shelf that sits in front of the Thwaites Glacier, could break up much sooner than expected — within 5 years.

Five Facts

  • Who is interviewed in this piece, and what is his background?
  • What is the Thwaites glacier and where is it?
  • Why are scientists alarmed about the rapid melt of the Thwaites glacier?
  • How will ice melt at the poles potentially affect people in the United States?
  • How many feet could seas rise if the Thwaites and neighboring glaciers melted, according to Dr. Holland?

Focus Questions

If Dr. Holland’s warning is accurate and seas rise by ten feet, how do you think that would impact coastal cities in the U.S.? How could we best prepare for such a change?

Media literacy: Do you think this piece makes a clear connection between burning of fossil fuels and melting of polar ice? What else would you want to know to better understand the connection?

Additional Resources

Republished with permission from PBS NewsHour Extra.

PBS NewsHour Classroom

PBS NewsHour Classroom helps teachers and students identify the who, what, where and why-it-matters of the major national and international news stories.

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