No matter where we are on Earth, we can observe changes in vegetation. Some changes are drastic, such as going from dormant to full growth during a temperate winter.
Vegetative growth is dependent on both surface temperature (which influences soil temperature) and precipitation (which influences soil moisture). Together these environmental variables help determine the beginning, duration, and end of the growing season; the latter marked by leaf senescence, when leaves of deciduous trees die and turn colors.
Geologic maps can tell you a lot about the rocks beneath your feet. You can use the legend with the map to figure out what rock types are in various geographic areas. The legend can also tell you in what geologic period those rocks formed. Geologists use such maps to help identify where natural resources are and where natural hazards are likely to occur. They are also critically useful in other ways, such as in making wise land use decisions.
The Gravestone Project, part of the global citizen science program called EarthTrek (www.goearthtrek.com
), is seeking volunteers to visit cemeteries around the world and collect scientific data on how marble gravestones are weathering.
Learn about ocean currents and systems in this activity from NOAA.
In 1972, NASA launched a special satellite called Landsat that contained a new camera designed to take pictures of the Earth. Why was this satellite so incredible? Well, it could take a series of pictures of almost the entire Earth over and over again, season after season, month after month, year after year. You will be seeing Landsat images in this activity and learn how to interpret them.
Paleontologists are the geoscientists who discover and study fossil evidence of past life. Sometimes they even find the footprints of dinosaurs that roamed the surface of the Earth long ago. Ever wonder how paleontologists are able to determine, based on fossil evidence, whether a particular dinosaur was walking or running when it left footprints behind? These two activities will help you to learn how these scientists can do that.
Nitrogen is an element that is found both in living things and the nonliving parts of the Earth system. In this classroom activity, students play the role of nitrogen atoms traveling through the nitrogen cycle to gain understanding of the varied pathways through the cycle and how nitrogen is relevant to living things.
How do archaeologists learn about climatic conditions and their effects on people in the past? In 1815, Mount Tambora in Indonesia erupted so violently that the sound of the eruption could be heard 1,600 miles away. Gases from the volcano shot into the stratosphere almost six miles above the Earth’s surface and lingered for years. Sulfur dioxide combined with water molecules to form sulfate particles that reflected sunlight away from Earth, gradually causing the planet’s surface to cool. The colder temperatures caused severe weather events worldwide.
In this 50-minute activity, you can use NASA satellite data to find out where there are the greatest concentrations of aerosols over the course of a year in the tropical Atlantic region, and where these aerosols come from.
Climate scientists study evidence in the geologic record, such as fossils, to figure out what climate was like over hundreds of thousands of years (“paleoclimate”). One fossil they use is pollen, a part of a flowering plant that helps make a seed. Pollen can be blown into lakes, where it is preserved in sediment. Pollen from spruces, which do well in cold climates, can suggest what climate was like when spruce pollen was deposited.