SUS 103 Lab:
Oceans: Warming & Sea Level Rise
The purpose of the next two labs are to help you better understand what is happening in our
oceans due to climate change. This lab will be focused on the warming oceans and sea level rise
including how they will influence future human migration. The lab next week will be focused on
ocean acidification. By the end of this lab you should be able to better understand and discuss
the following concepts.
• The factors that explain why 93% of the incoming solar radiation is going toward heating the oceans rather than land surfaces.
• How the thermal inertia of the ocean helps to minimize the warming of the Earth’s climate system.
• How warmer water impacts coral reefs and the “ocean food web”. • The impacts to cultures that have a close relationship to life surrounding the coral reefs.
Sea Level Rise:
• The difference between “sea ice” and “land ice” in relationship to sea level rise. • How melting of part or all of the Greenland Ice Sheet could raise sea level. • How the Antarctic Ice Sheet may cause significant impacts to sea level rise. • The impact that sea level rise could have on US towns and cities using a computer model
that predicts sea level rise in relationship to global average temperature rise.
• What is a “climate refugee”? • What is the difference between a “political refugee” and a “climate refugee”? • What are “Rights of Asylum” and how might this relate to climate change?
Questions are in blue and are worth 1 point unless otherwise noted.
SECTION I – OCEAN WARMING
Ocean Warming. 93% of incoming solar radiation has gone toward warming the Earth’s oceans.
70% of the Earth’s surface is covered by ocean but they are dark in color so absorb more heat
than land surfaces.
While ocean warming has a profound impact on ocean organisms, the rate at which the ocean
warms is mediated by the Thermal Inertia it takes to change water temperature. Your Lab
Instructor will perform a “thermal inertia demonstration” with balloons to help better
understand the thermal inertia of oceans and how they absorb heat to maintain equilibrium with
the air temperature.
The ocean surface waters have warmed due to increasing air temperatures over the past century
and have caused massive outbreaks of coral bleaching and dying coral throughout the world.
There is great risk to coral in the future and the 2018 IPCC findings will be discussed. Two short
videos from the “Years of Living Dangerously” series will be shown to demonstrate this issue.
(for reference these videos are parts 1 Here, and part 2 Here)
Questions for Section I:
Q1: Why does the ocean absorb more of the incoming solar radiation than land surfaces?
Q2: The balloon did not pop, how might this provide a demonstration of the thermal
inertia of the ocean?
Q3: How much of the additional heat caused by the anthropogenic greenhouse effect has
been absorbed into the ocean? How much has it raised the ocean’s surface temp?
Q4: What impact do warmer ocean temperatures have on coral reefs? What percentage of
coral reefs have died due to warming oceans in the last 30 years?
Q5: What percentage of the ocean species are supported by coral reefs?
Q6: What does the IPCC say will happen to coral reefs with a 1.5 deg. C global average
temperature rise? With a 2.0 deg. C rise?
Q7: Essay Question. What did you know about coral reefs before this class? Consider
for a few minutes what is happening to the coral reefs and discuss in depth your thoughts
on this. 100-200 words minimum. (4 pts)
SECTION II – SEA LEVEL RISE
In this section we will be learning about how increased melting of land ice can lead to sea level
rise. First, we will discuss the how much the sea level has currently risen and how much it is
expected to rise by year 2100. Then as a class we will calculate how much the sea level would
rise if the entire Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt.
Then we will use the new interactive sea-level rise visualization website developed at Princeton
University to get an idea of potential impacts on various cities by the year 2100 given alternate
greenhouse gas emissions scenarios.
Q8: How much as the ocean risen so far? How much is it expected to rise by 2100?
Q9: How much worse could it rise by 2100? What would cause this?
I. How much could sea level rise if all of the ice on Greenland and Antarctica melts? Important note on precision: Numbers must be both accurate and REALISTIC in science. Your
calculations below should not be reported to more than one decimal point, also called one significant
digit; in other words, only report the first number after the decimal point.
Think about why that is? What do the numbers beyond the 9 after the decimal point in 7.95682341
meters means? Do you think we really can measure beyond a 10 th of a meter (one decimeter) when
talking about melting glaciers?
Also consider, would it be MEANINGFUL to measure melting in centimeters or below when melting is
happening on the order of meters? Maybe if we were measuring through a microscope we could take a
measurement in that range. But we are not measuring at this level of precision when we are calculating
sea level rise from melting glaciers.
Q10: Work with your group and use Google and find the following two numbers.
Confirm you have the right numbers with your Lab Instructor, then follow the series of
calculations to find the sea level rise if the entire Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt. (4
The estimated volume of Greenland ice (km3):________
The area of the Earth’s oceans (km2): ________
Use these values to calculate a rough estimate of the number of feet sea level would rise
if all the ice on Greenland melted (see equation below) ___________
Greenland Ice Volume (km3) = Earth’s Ocean Area (km2)
Multiply your answer by 0.9167 to account for the expansion coefficient of ice (water
will take up less volume than ice, this is why ice floats) ____________
Multiply your answer above by 1.019 to account for the increased density of sea water
(salty water takes up more space)__________ _
Multiply this final answer by 3281 ft/km to get your results in feet _______ This is the
potential sea level rise if the entire Greenland Ice Sheet were to melt.
Q11: What is the potential sea level rise if the entire Antarctic Ice Sheet were to melt?
Q12: How likely is it that the Greenland and Antarctic Ice Sheets will melt by 2100?
II. Visualize how sea level rise is expected to affect US cities For this exercise we will be using a web program recently developed at Princeton University
to visualize the impact of sea level rise on “US Cities That Could Be Lost to the Seas”.
Read the opening page here and working together as a class, answer the following questions:
Q13: Does this website project: 1) when these changes will occur? or 2) at what level of
CO2 emissions these changes will occur?
Q14: How many US towns and cities do they say are destined to have most of their
homes submerged given the current CO2 emitted to the atmosphere?
Q15: How many US towns and cities do they calculate could have most of the homes
a) unabated emissions for the rest of this century?
b) drastically cut emissions for the rest of this century?
Use the program. The web program starts with a series of slides for you to consider. At the
final slide in this series watch the animation of the timeline of US cities becoming inundated
with sea water. Then click on Miami Florida and note:
Q16: The % of Miami’s population that will be affected by sea level rise given the
current CO2 concentrations:
30%, 50%, 100%
Q17: The % of Miami’s population that would be affected by the CO2 concentrations
expected by 2100 with unchecked pollution:
30%, 50%, 100%
Q18: The % of Miami’s population that would be affected by the CO2 concentrations
expected by 2100 with extreme carbon cuts:
30%, 50%, 100%
Click on the street level view and notice if you see differences or not.
Then zoom out from these images to see that the reason you didn’t see differences were because both images were entirely under water.
Now click on the plus symbol “+” in the upper right corner of this screen and go to a page titled “Icons Under Water”, or click on this link:
Scroll the center bar of this image to the right and the left to view how these icons will look after 2ºC and 4ºC of warming.
Q19: Which of the following are NOT included in these images:
Miami FL, Manhattan NY, Portland OR
Q20: Name 6 major coastal cites from around the world that will be impacted due to
rising sea levels.
After watching two more short “Years of Living Dangerously” videos, answer the following
questions discussing two of the locations in our country that are at a high risk due to sea level
rise. (for reference the “Saving Miami” video is Here and the Norfolk Naval Base video is
Q21: When does Miami appear to be inhabitable at high tides from the Saving
Miami/Jack Black video? Does this seem realistic to you from what you have learned?
Q22: What is the expected sea level rise at the Norfolk Naval Station and what year is
this expected to happen by?
Q23: When is the concern about sea level rise the greatest and when can the most
Q24: Essay Question. What did you know about sea level rise before this class?
Consider for a few minutes what is happening due to sea level rise to shorelines and
major cities around the world and discuss in depth your thoughts on this. 100-200 words
minimum. (4 pts)
SECTION III – MIGRATIONS
In this section we will be considering what is potentially one of the most challenging aspects of
global warming, and that is the migration of millions of people impacted by the changing
climate. These migrations have already begun on a small scale but will get larger and much
more challenging as the impacts of climate change increase. Note, these migrations could be
caused by several different aspects of climate change, two aspects including the loss of coral
reefs and rising sea levels as discussed in this lab.
Q25: What is a “climate refugee”?
Q26: What is the difference between a “political refugee” and a “climate refugee”?
Q27: What is “Rights of Asylum” and how does that relate to climate refugees?
Q28: Consider deeply the potential migrations that will be caused by climate change.
Discuss how you feel about this, and what you think might be able to be done for this.
Know this is a very complex subject, there are no wrong answers, but compassion to all
beings is a good fundamental basis to start from. This may well become one of the most
challenging subjects in the decades to come. 100-200 words minimum. (4 pts)
Extra Credit: There is a Pt. 3 to the ”Years of Living Dangerously” Collapse of the Oceans video
(5 min.) that we didn’t have time to see. If interested you can watch it “Here”, consider the
greater implications of the video and this assignment and discuss your thoughts in depth. 100-
200 words minimum (4 pts)