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Using NASA NEO and ImageJ to Explore the Role of Snow Cover in Shaping Climate

B. Youngman, C. McAuliffe, R. Freuder, J. Lockwood, K. Ward, D. Herring, H. Riebeek, Earth Exploration Toolbook Chapter from TERC

In this activity students download satellite images displaying land surface temperature, snow cover, and reflected short wave radiation data from the NASA Earth Observation (NEO) Web site. They then explore and animate these images using the free tool ImageJ and utilize the Web-based analysis tools built into NEO to observe, graph, and analyze the relationships among these three variables.

Activity takes about three to four class periods. Computer access is necessary.

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Climate Literacy
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Sunlight warms the planet
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Equilibrium and feedback loops in climate system
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Energy Literacy

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Energy is neither created nor destroyed.
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2.3 Earth's climate driven by the Sun.
Humans live within Earth's ecosystems.
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3.6 Humans live within Earth's ecosystems..

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
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2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:A) Processes that shape the Earth
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2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
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Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers should become fully familiar with the NEO website and with the functionality of both the ImageJ and ICE used in this activities. These are complex instructions that may intimidate some students (and teachers), but they are thorough and should support a great exploration experience.

About the Science

  • A very solid activity with important satellite datasets and visualization tools, which use state-of-the-art tools.
  • Focus is on albedo and not the science of climate change.
  • Students are looking only at a single year of data.
  • Activity does not explore how the data from the satellite sensors are processed to create the maps.

About the Pedagogy

  • Will appeal most to visual learners, good readers and detail-oriented learners who are willing to follow scripted step by step directions.
  • No support for assessment.
  • While it is useful for students to search and download their own datasets, the resource does provide the teacher with direct access to the datasets needed for the activity.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Installation instructions are quite detailed and accurate.
  • Activity requires user to download the ImageJ program. It is freely available for Mac, Windows and Linux computers.

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