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Graphing the Thermal Expansion of Water

Global warming is essential and real: without it we would not
exist. Short wavelength sunlight enters and is trapped inside the
Earth's atmosphere where it is converted to longer wavelength
heat, which cannot leave. This keeps the planet warm enough for
life. But human activities are seriously overwhelming the natural
global warming phenomenon, leading to profound changes in the
climate of the Earth.

INVESTIGATION: Thermal expansion of water and its impact on the planet Earth

Observe and explain the thermal expansion of water - the effect of temperature increase on a volume
of water and, by implication, understand how this would lead to an increase in sea level - thermal

If global temperatures increase, many scientists have indicated that an increase in sea level is the most likely
secondary effect. Two factors will contribute to this accelerated rise in sea level:
1. First, although the oceans have an enormous heat storage capacity, if global atmospheric temperatures
rise, the oceans will absorb heat and expand ("thermal expansion") leading to a rise in sea level.
2. Second, warmer temperatures will cause ice currently locked up in glaciers and snowfields on land to
melt, thereby increasing the amount of water in the oceans.

An accelerated rise in sea level would inundate coastal lowlands, increase the rate of shoreline erosion,
exacerbate coastal flooding, raise water tables, threaten coastal structures, and increase the salinity of rivers,
bays, and aquifers. In Ecuador this would affect low-lying, coastal regions, such as Santa Elena and Guayas,
including Guayaquil.

Base your investigation set-up on the following YouTube video:
Design and modify your apparatus so that:
The water container (flask or bottle) is airtight. This is very important!
You will be able to heat the water, using the light bulb
You will be able to see and measure the expansion of the water

Materials: (for each group)

-container: conical flask or transparent 750ml juice bottle - to hold water
-cork stopper or bottle lid - to hold thermometer and thin glass tube or straw
-plasticine or vaseline - to make the flask or bottle airtight
-strong light bulb - source of heat
-thin glass tube or thin, transparent drinking straw- to measure water expansion
-dye or food colouring - to make the water more visible
-thermometer - to measure the increase in water temperature
-short strip of mm graph paper - to record water expansion
1. Complete the format: "The Scientific Process Before an Investigation"
2. Complete the planning format: "Planning an Experimental Investigation"
3. Set up and conduct the investigation
4. Collect results in a results table
5. Process the results by drawing a line graph
6. Analyse the results and the graph by writing a summary of what has happened
7. Write a conclusion: SUPPORT or REJECT the hypothesis and justify your conclusion by
referring to the results, the graph and the summary

Why did the level of water in the flask change? This is the important biochemistry question
what are the physical properties of water which lead to its thermal expansion?
What does this experiment suggest might occur if the oceans warm? Consider the possible
impacts of sea-level rise in low-lying coastal areas such as Bangladesh or South Florida or
Rotterdam or Guayaquil
If global warming is not sufficient to cause significant snow and ice melt, would you expect
this thermal expansion to be enough to cause coastal flooding and erosion problems?
Which would you expect to have a greater effect on sea level the melting of Arctic sea-ice,
the Greenland ice cap, or ice sheets in the Antarctic? (This is a bit of a trick question: the melting
of sea-ice has no effect on sea levels, except in "uncorking" glaciers and ice streams which then
can flow more easily down into the ocean. It's dynamic ice sheets such as that in Greenland and in
West Antarctica that could, potentially, have a major impact on sea level. East Antarctica, for
now, seems relatively stable, and actually seems to be gaining ice.)

Collect all the work together and include it in a plastic holder in your APES file.

John Osborne
September 2017