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Intro to Remote Sensing

Kevin Spigel, Encyclopedia of the Earth

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In this activity students use a series of Landsat images from 1975 to 2005 to examine changes in land cover and abundance of vegetation in the summer (peak abundance) and relate these changes to climate conditions.

Activity takes one to two hours.

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Climate Literacy
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Evidence is that human impacts are playing an increasing role in climate change
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Observations are the foundation for understanding the climate system
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Benchmarks for Science Literacy
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Scientific investigations usually involve the collection of relevant data, the use of logical reasoning, and the application of imagination in devising hypotheses and explanations to make sense of the collected data.
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The earth's climates have changed in the past, are currently changing, and are expected to change in the future, primarily due to changes in the amount of light reaching places on the earth and the composition of the atmosphere. The burning of fossil fuels in the last century has increased the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, which has contributed to Earth's warming.
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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

  • Use with younger students as classroom activity.
  • Since related climate data is referenced (but not provided) in the activity, it would be a useful addition; and take the learning from observations of changes in vegetation in one locality to possible associations with regional changes in climate variables.
  • Teachers should be sure to read the background provided in the links.

About the Science

  • Solid introduction to the examination of Landsat images to study changes in vegetation with focus on one locality, Unity, Maine, over the 30-year period 1975-2005.
  • Related climate data is referenced in the activity but does not appear in the available materials.
  • Summer images were selected to acquire data near the time of maximum vegetation cover.

About the Pedagogy

  • Activity designed as a skill-builder introduction to remote sensing, i.e., the use of local remote sensing data to detect changes in land cover over time.
  • Could be done as a classroom activity for younger students, with some teacher support.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Technically straightforward, but since there are no separate teacher's instructions, it may prove difficult for educators to present without some familiarity with remote sensing data.

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