Question Sheet: Shrinking Glaciers


Before reading:

  1. What is a glacier? Where can you find glaciers? 
  2. What sorts of scientists study glaciers? See (Rocky Mountain Public Broadcasting Network).

During reading:

  1. How have glaciers been changing in recent decades? 
  2. Describe an alpine glacier. 
  3. How are warmer climates affected by melting glaciers? 
  4. How does the movement of a glacier change the landscape? See Snow and Ice Data Center). 
  5. What methods do Echelmeyer and his coworkers use to determine how quickly a

    glacier is melting? 

  6. What is permafrost? See Resources Canada). 
  7. What’s happening to the village of Shishmaref in Alaska? See (NOAA).

After reading:

  1. Why are glaciers melting faster on the edges than in the center? 
  2. How do you think national and state governments should react to evidence that glaciers are shrinking? 
  3. Why does Echelmeyer use a video camera when studying what’s happening to glaciers? 
  4. Why might one say that, “Glaciers are powerful but fragile”? 
  5. What does a glaciologist do? Would you consider becoming a glaciologist? Why or why not? See


    (British Antarctic Survey), (Science), or (Secrets of the Ice).


  1. Plan a 3-day trip to see glaciers. Where would you go? How would you travel around? What other sites would you see in the area? 
  2. What factors would cause sea levels to increase? If sea levels were to rise, which cities around the world or in the United States would be affected first by rising waters? See (NASA) and

    (U.S. Environmental Protection Agency).


  1. Think about the way that flooding has devastated New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. Write a short story about some people trapped in a coastal town (like Shishmaref, Alaska) where rising sea levels and storms have combined to wash away much of the original coastline. See 
  2. Compare this article with two other Science News For Kids articles on global warming: “Recipe for a Hurricane” and “A Dire Shortage of Water.” Which article do you find most compelling? Why? What are the strengths and weaknesses of each article?


In the United States, glaciers cover about 75,000 square kilometers of land. The total area of the United States is 9,631,418 square kilometers. What percentage of the land in the United States is covered by glaciers?