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Bonnie Waltch, Susan Gray


9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Earth and Space Sciences

Resource Type

  • Videos, 10 minutes, 35 seconds, CC, Subtitles

Regional Focus

Global, Polar Regions

Feedback Loops - Albedo

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  • This video describes the feedback loops related to arctic sea ice, the loss of the albedo effect, and sea level rise. 
  • Students will learn that ice and snow at the poles reflect heat from the sun in a phenomenon called the albedo effect. As global temperatures rise and snow and ice melt, less heat can be reflected away from Earth causing more ice to melt and ocean waters to warm. 
  • Warmer water triggers a second feedback loop in which sea levels rise due to the melting of ice at the poles. As more land ice turns into water, the sea level rises, which causes more ice to melt. 
Teaching Tips


  • The video provides diagrams and visuals to support understanding.
  • The video provides subtitles in 25 languages. 

Additional Prerequisites

  • This video does not explain what a feedback loop is, so teachers may want to show students this introduction video on feedback loops. 
  • The concept of chain reactions, feedback loops, and tipping points can be abstract and difficult for students to grasp. Consider discussing these terms before viewing the video and providing some simple examples to aid understanding. 


  • Consider having students copy the feedback loop diagrams from the video, or create their own to support understanding. 
  • This topic can be emotionally challenging for students to learn about. Teachers should plan to provide support and options for students to take action for the climate so they do not feel powerless in the face of this global issue. 
  • Students are more likely to understand the concept of albedo and feedback loops by investigating a model or experiencing this effect through observation. Consider pairing this resource with this lab or with this experiment about the albedo effect. 
Scientist Notes
The resource spotlights the importance of the albedo effect in cooling the planet. Climate change has caused more snow and ice cover to melt in the Arctic. There is a need to limit fossil fuel emissions to reduce global warming to enable our snow and ice cover to reflect heat to space. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)
    • ESS2: Earth's Systems
      • HS-ESS2-2 Analyze geoscience data to make the claim that one change to Earth’s surface can create feedbacks that cause changes to other Earth systems.
      • HS-ESS2-4 Use a model to describe how variations in the flow of energy into and out of Earth’s systems result in changes in climate.
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-5 Analyze geoscience data and the results from global climate models to make an evidence-based forecast of the current rate of global or regional climate change and associated future impacts to Earth systems.
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