Questions for “From icebergs to smoke, forecasting where dangers will drift”

a photo of an iceberg on choppy seas

Icebergs are just one of many things that drift through our world. Scientists are studying drifting ice, smoke and invasive species to better know where these dangers may lie.

TCYuen/ Moment Open /Getty Images

To accompany feature “From icebergs to smoke, predicting where dangers will drift


Before Reading:

1. What types of things undergo movements that might best be described as drifting? List as many as you can.

2. What causes things to drift? Consider what forces act on substances to propel their drift?

During Reading:

1.  What kind of researcher is Binbin Wang? What type of work did he start studying in the Missouri River?

2.  What types of carp were described in the story and where did they come from? Why are researchers concerned about these carp showing up in U.S. rivers? How did they get in those rivers?

3.  What type of barrier are researchers hoping to erect to slow an expansion of the range of non-native carp in U.S. waters?

4.  According to Wang, where does turbulence occur in rivers? How often can the rate of turbulence change at any given site?

5.  What unexpected thing did Alan Condron and Jenna Hill learn about the drift of icebergs 31,000 years ago? What are scours and how did these inform their research?

6.  Condron developed a computer model to study icebergs. What does the “dynamics” portion of his model describe? What does the heat equation predict?

7.  Give two very different reasons that people might look to tow icebergs.

8.  Where does Holger Baar work and what unexpected aerosols did he identify in the sky overhead? Where did they come from?

9.  Baar, too, used a computer model to study those aerosols? What types of data did he need to plug into that model to aid in his studies?

10. Baar tells his children that the atmosphere has no borders? In terms of the story, what was he explaining when he said that?

After Reading:

1.  All of the research teams described in the story used computer models in their studies. What are computer models and what makes them so useful for predicting things or analyzing things? What question might you like answered by a computer model? Hint: These are good at looking to make predictions based on lots of data or lots of scenarios.

2.  Holger Baar used a computer model to analyze the source of some wildfire aerosols. For what other aspects of analyzing wildfires might computer models prove useful? Hint: Think about what you’d like to know in the weeks before wildfire season begins. What other types of things might you want to predict once a particular wildfire has ignited?