Melting Ice Caps

At the north and the south poles, spring is winning out. Human civilization is causing some serious changes on the planet. The Earth is producing increased levels of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is known as a greenhouse gas; it is a gas, trapped in the atmosphere, that lets the heat of the sun enter the Earth's atmosphere, but doesn't let that heat escape. The carbon dioxide, therefore, acts like the glass in a greenhouse - it lets the heat in, and traps it there. Because of this greenhouse effect, the Earth as a whole is slowly heating up. This increase in temperature is most felt in the polar regions.

Because of the greenhouse effect, the polar ice caps are melting. This melting is, in turn, causing the sea-level to rise. If the sea-level changes any significant amount, the marine ecosystem on planet Earth will be seriously altered. The sea-level will rise causing high waters and flooding in coastal areas. The temperature of the oceans will also change causing many organisms living in the sea to die.

The speed at which the ice caps are melting is important. Scientists are trying to gain an understanding of the specific mechanisms that are involved in the greenhouse effect so they can best figure out how to fix it. Scientists are also trying to figure out how quickly the ocean levels and temperatures are changing.

Can you design a satellite that will find some of the answers to these questions? Think about what your satellite must do, what it must look at, and what kind of data it must collect. All of these factors will help you to design a satellite that will help solve the problem described.

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