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Using Satellite Images to Understand Earth's Atmosphere

Todd Ensign, et. al., Earth Exploration Toolbook, TERC

In this Earth Exploration Toolbook chapter, students select, explore, and analyze satellite imagery. They do so in the context of a case study of the origins of atmospheric carbon monoxide and aerosols, tiny solid airborne particles such as smoke from forest fires and dust from desert wind storms. They use the software tool ImageJ to animate a year of monthly images of aerosol data and then compare the animation to one created for monthly images of carbon monoxide data. Students select, explore and analyze satellite imagery using NASA Earth Observatory (NEO) satellite data and NEO Image Composite Explorer (ICE) tool to investigate seasonal and geographic patterns and variations in concentration of CO and aerosols in the atmosphere.

Activity takes about three to four class periods. Computer and Internet access required.

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Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

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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

  • Introduce students to ImageJ before beginning the exercise.
  • Instructors should emphasize the effect of aerosols on the energy budget and climate.
  • Suggest pairing students for activity.

About the Science

  • Excellent use and application of science from remote sensing data with a problem-based scenario.
  • Makes use of the type of tools scientists use to analyze satellite images to study change.

About the Pedagogy

  • Hands-on exercise uses NEO data to explore carbon monoxide concentrations and aerosols.
  • Good organization of learning materials and a logical learning sequence leads students to analysis and understanding of complex data sets.
  • Instructions are clear, thorough, and well-written.
  • The case study provides good background information for students (and teachers).
  • Excellent going further activities for advanced students.
  • Hands-on exercise uses NEO data to explore carbon monoxide concentrations and aerosols.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • The "show me" feature that helps students through problems and procedures using software is just exemplary and allows students to check their progress frequently throughout the activity.

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