Image of a telecommunication satellite orbiting Earth around the frozen continent of Antarctica and its surrounding sea ice


This activity is based on exploring the effects of climate change on the Antarctic ice sheet using satellite images from Google Earth. You will learn how to use Google Earth for scientific purposes. You will be able to visually identify how glacial ice advances and/or retreats.

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Directions to install Google Earth on your computer:

  1. Select the link to download Google Earth.
  2. Select Download Google Earth. You can check or uncheck the boxes for Google Chrome. We will not need it for this exercise.
  3. Select Agree and Download to accept the terms of service.
  4. Once the file is downloaded, select Run to install it on your computer, and then follow the screen directions. This will download Google Earth on your computer.
  5. You can also download it on your mobile device.
  6. Open Google Earth.

If you have never used Google Earth before, please click on the User Guide link to get to know it.

Once you are familiar with navigating the software, follow the following steps.

  1. In the SEARCH menu on the left of the screen, type “Hudson Mountains” in the space and select Search. It will take you to northern Antarctica. Zoom out until you see the southern tip of Chile. Now you can see the fragmented coast of Antarctica with a visible ice-water boundary.
  2. Zoom in or out using the vertical + . . . . . . . . . . . . . – scale on the right of your screen. It is important to zoom in and out to both identify and illustrate key characteristics of the water-ice interface.
  3. Zoom in on the ice-water boundary near the Canisteo Peninsula (northwest of the Hudson Mountains). Move your cursor on the top toolbar. As you hover over each tool, its label is specified. Select the one labelled “Show Historical Imagery.”
  4. Your view will slightly change; don’t worry, this is common. A slider will appear in the top left corner of your view with start and end dates. This is the date range for which imageries are available for this location. Move the slider from newer to older dates and observe the change(s) in the water-ice interface. Repeat this a few times and you will notice a change, either the icebergs will increase or decrease in size. Because of gaps in satellite coverage, the slider may not move smoothly, and that is normal.
  5. Repeat the process for TWO more locations anywhere around the entire periphery of Antarctica. Select locations that show the maximum amount of change.

Your lab report should include the following:

  1. For each location, add one or more images in your report. To save an image, click File, then Save, and finally Save Image. Give it an appropriate name and insert it in your Word document.
  2. For each location, describe the name (derived from nearby peninsulas), characteristic features, latitude, longitude, and height above mean sea level and whether it is advancing or retreating (increasing or decreasing icebergs) with age progression.
  3. Include a background of the Antarctic ice sheet and its unique living organisms. Currently, a lot of research is carried out on the pelagic and benthic communities of Antarctica. What effect will the advancing and retreating glaciers have on those communities? [Hint: salinity.]
  4. Once you collect all the data, think of possible causes for the observed changes at your locations using the knowledge that you have learned so far in the course and the information obtained through your work in Step #3. In your lab report, list at least two possible causes, with a brief explanation/justification for each. Feel free to add more causal mechanisms.

Complete your write-up using the American Psychological Association (APA) style (6th edition).

Compose your work using a word processor (or other software as appropriate) and save it frequently to your computer. Be sure to check your work and correct any spelling or grammatical errors before you upload it. When you are ready to submit your work, click “Browse My Computer” and find your file. Once you have located your file, click “Open” and, if successful, the file name will appear under the Attached files heading. Scroll to the bottom of the page and click “Submit.”


•   Google Earth. (n.d.). Retrieved from

•   National Association of Geoscience Teachers (NAGT). (n.d.). User guideTeaching MethodsCutting Edge. Retrieved from


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