Slo-Mo Glaciers


Type: Investigation

Theme: Modeling

Grades: 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12

Learning Target: Students will calculate physical characteristics and flow rate of one glacier and determine its hydrological downstream impacts.


This project is for groups of two. Please create a PowerPoint or Word Document.

  1. Select one glacier from the Pacific Northwest.
  2. Estimate volume.
    1. Measure the surface area of the glacier using Google Earth.
    2. Estimate the average depth of glacier.
    3. Estimate volume in cubic meters.
  3. Estimate mass balance (Is it growing or shrinking? Do researchers have a rate on its mass change?)
    1. Use historical imagery. Be sure to compare glacier images during months when it doesn't have any new snow on it (August, September, and October),
    2. Or review scientific research about your glacier.
  4. Determine the rate of movement on one section of the glacier.
    1. Find a rock or surface feature on the glacier using Google Earth.
    2. Use historical imagery to determine movement.
    3. Measure change distance.
    4. Calculate rate in meters per year (movement will probably be less than 1000 meters per year).
  5. Research: Which downstream communities rely on water from the glacier?
  6. What type of economic activities rely on the water from the glacier?
  7. Study this animation to answer Submission Item 8 below.


  1. Glacier name and location (decimal-based latitude and longitude)
  2. Historical and present day photograph
  3. Volume estimation (show your work)
  4. Mass balance estimation (provide resources)
  5. Glacier rate of movement (meters per year)
  6. List of communities who rely on the water from your glacier
  7. List of economic activities that rely on the water from your glacier
  8. Answer the following question: How do glaciers affect river flow during the summer dry months in the Pacific Northwest?
  9. Peer Review.

Vocab: cirque, glacial mass balance, glacial melt-off, glacier, hydrology, moraine, precipitation, water year


Researchers in the Pacific Northwest are monitoring glacial mass to learn how yearly glacial melting affects rivers in the Northwest. They are finding that glaciers act as a kind of buffer to drought. During times when precipitation is low and temperatures are high, glaciers release water into rivers. The effect is that many rivers in the Northwest do not fluctuate as much as they would without glaciers.


Exit Ticket
CCSS Math Practice
  • I can reason abstractly and quantitatively.
  • I can model with mathematics.
NGSS Crosscutting Concepts
  • Scale, Proportion, and Quantity
  • Stability and Change