Skip to main content

Dynamic Planet

Division: B – Middle School

NC Essential Standards Alignment: 8.E.1

Event Rules: None

Event Score Sheet: None

National Event Page: Here

Required Materials: Each team may bring one 2″ or smaller three-ring binder measured by the interior diameter of the rings. The sheets may be laminated or in sheet protectors without annotations affixed. Each team may bring two stand-alone calculators of any type. 



This event is typically run as either a station event or a sit down test. Teams will be presented with data, charts/graphs, pictures or diagrams and/or written descriptions. Teams will then be asked to answer questions, perform calculations, and otherwise solve the tasks they are given. Teams may also be asked to draw conclusions and predict likely future occurrences based on historic information.




High score wins. Points are awarded for quality and accuracy of answers. Predetermined questions will be used as tiebreakers.

Common Mistakes:


Questions answered:

Do ocean gyres have specific shapes to them?  For example, are the gyres in the Atlantic and Pacific different types of ovals?  If so, what determines any shape to gyres in the oceans?

It depends on wind patterns in the atmosphere.  The key answer is that the shape of the gyre is determined by whether the winds torque the water in a clockwise or in a counterclockwise direction.  In general this means that the boundary between the subtropical and subpolar gyres lies along the maximum of the westerly wind jet. In the North Atlantic, this runs somewhat southwest to northeast, while in the North Pacific it runs much more east-west. The southern boundary of the subtropical gyre is similarly associated with the maximum in the easterly winds.

Why do currents in the eastern Atlantic Ocean flow towards the south?

There are many processes at work.  However, the connection between the atmosphere and ocean (atmospheric circulations and wind driving ocean surface currents) is one key thing (see explanation above).  

Here is another useful resource:

What is the Gulf Stream?

– also the Gulf Stream’s ties to the Bermuda High –

Are whales and other animals affected by changes in ocean circulation due to sea ice melting?  Is whale communication impacted by changes in ocean properties?

In the polar regions and animals who might visit/migrate to polar regions at least, the answer is yes.  Ocean circulation changes impact the food chain, including animals that live in polar regions or visit polar regions if they migrate.


“Sea ice also plays a fundamental role in polar ecosystems. When the ice melts in the summer, it releases nutrients into the water, stimulating the growth of phytoplankton, the center of the marine food web. As the ice melts, it exposes ocean water to sunlight, spurring photosynthesis in phytoplankton. When ice freezes, the underlying water gets saltier and sinks, mixing the water column and bringing nutrients to the surface. The ice itself is habitat for animals such as seals, Arctic foxes, polar bears, and penguins.”

“Life thrives along the margins of sea ice, as melting and freezing enhance circulation and bring nutrients to the surface. Those nutrients nourish phytoplankton and ultimately animals like killer whales that are farther up the food chain. “

Regarding animal communication, the answer may be yes as well, but I haven’t done a ton of digging into it yet, so I’m not totally sure about details.  Check out as one place to start.

Event Resources:

2018 Dynamic Planet Regional Test
2018 Dynamic Planet State Test
Correlation of Stratigraphic Units
Dynamic Planet Test from 2016
NASA’s Earth Observatory 
NC State GeoSciences YouTube channel.  Lots of great information on this channel!
Glaciers, Glaciation, and Long-Term Climate Change
Dynamic Plates App for iPad
Tremor Tracker for iPad
A model of Three Faults
Investigating Plate Tectonics with Google Earth
Discovering Plate Boundaries
Pinterest Board with great Earth Science ideas from the National Event Supervisor
Resources for topics NOT in this year’s rules:
Water Science – USGS
Photo Glossary of Glacier Terms
UMass Glacier Lecture Series
Oceanography Online 
Introduction to Physical Oceanography
The Bridge – An ocean of teacher approved marine education resources
Project Oceanography
Oceanography: An Invitation to Marine Science