Changing Antarctica

Antarctica is a vast ice sheet. The continent is larger than the United States of America, and has enough ice to raise global sea levels by ~58 m if it all melted. It is extremely cold, with very little surface melt.

However, it is changing rapidly. Parts of West Antarctica are grounded well below sea level, which can act to destabliise the ice sheet. Warm ocean currents are able to melt ice shelves from below, and cause a retreat of the grounding line of tidewater glaciers. These articles outline how Antarctica is changing.

Antarctica StoryMap Series

Introducing the Antarctica StoryMap Series

This page includes a series of four Antarctica StoryMap Collections introducing Antarctica, launched as a complete collection in September 2021. They are suitable for UK key stage 3 to GCSE (age ~14 to 16).

The Antarctica StoryMap Series comprises 18 individual StoryMaps, arranged into four Antarctica StoryMap Collections, forming a comprehensive body of work that introduces the concept of Antarctica, it’s biome and wildlife, its climate and sea level rise potential, and people exploring, living and working in Antarctica.

Each single StoryMap is estimated to take around 1 hr (or 1 double lesson) to work through and complete, and each collection can stand alone or they can be used together to explore and understand the Antarctic biome.

Free teaching resources

The Antarctica StoryMap Series is supported by a Scheme of Work for each StoryMap and a peer-reviewed article in Teaching Geography.

These four ESRI Antarctica StoryMap Collections are aimed at KS3 to KS4 students, and beginners who are interested in learning about Antarctica. They are supported by some introductory articles and were supported and developed in conjunction with pedagogical consultants and teachers. Please consult the Scheme of Work that accompanies each StoryMap Collection to see how they may fit into your teaching.

Davies et al., 2021. Teaching Geography 46(3), 112 – 114.

These Antarctica StoryMap Collections are a great resource for home or in-classroom learning, building on skills in GIS and mapping and data analysis. By completing the series of activities throughout the StoryMaps, and interacting with the resources, you will finish with a clear understanding about some of the key topics in Antarctica!

Other storymaps that might be of interest are highlighted here.

Date of Publication

The complete Antarctica StoryMap Series was launched on 20th September 2021.

Individual Collections were launched as follows:

  • Introduction to Antarctica: 15th March 2021
  • Wildlife in Antarctica: 15th March 2021
  • Climate change in Antarctica: 12th July 2021
  • People in Antarctica: 20th September 2021

Funding and Contributors

These freely available resources were produced by an interdisciplinary team, including scientific experts (Bethan Davies, Huw Griffiths, Klaus Dodds, Peter Neff, Sam Royston, British Antarctic Survey, UK Antarctic Heritage Trust, Michael Hambrey), technical experts from ESRI UK, and school teachers. They were produced by Laura Boyall and Jen Thornton, with help from Benjamin Samingpai and Chloe Trimmer. The project was funded by the Antarctic Science Bursary.

The Antarctica StoryMap Collections were funded by an educational bursary from Antarctic Science Ltd.

The StoryMaps were supported by the British Antarctic Survey, ESRI, Antarctic Heritage Trust, Royal Holloway University of London and Geography Southwest! We also thank numerous scientific advisors and contributors, who have helped to ensure that these resources are accurate, up to date, and unique.

Antarctic Sea Ice

Guest post by Dr Jonathan Day, Department of Meteorology, University of Reading

What is going on with the Antarctic sea ice?

March 2017 was an interesting month for sea ice. Both northern and southern hemispheres experienced record breaking low extents for the time of year. The extent of Arctic sea ice reached the maximum area of its seasonal cycle on March 7th coming in at 14.42 million km2. This was a fraction below the previous record, set in 2015 and is in line with what we expect to see in a warming climate. Meanwhile the other side of the planet Antarctic sea ice continues to confound expectations. Continue reading

Sea level rise over the next 2000 years

A new paper by Levermann et al. in PNAS uses the record of past rates of sea level rise from palaeo archives and numerical computer models to understand how much sea level rise we can expect per degree of warming in the future. These data suggest that we can expect a global sea level rise of 2.3 m per 1°C of warming within the next 2000 years: well within societal timeframes. A 2°C of warming would result in a global sea level rise of 4.8 m within 2000 years. This would inundate many coastal cities in Europe alone, and cause untold economic and societal damage.

Continue reading