Friday, June 15, 2012

Exploring NASA's Earth Observatory

This afternoon on the Google Earth Blog I read a short blog post about the largest volcanic eruption of the 20th Century. That post contained a link to NASA's Earth Observatory website which I followed and then proceeded to spend a good twenty minutes or more exploring the maps and images on the site.

NASA's Earth Observatory features satellite imagery and maps depicting what is happening on the Earth's surface, in the oceans, and in the atmosphere. There is a daily image feed and each image in it is accompanied by an explanation of its context. Some of the daily images are used for a monthly puzzler challenge. The puzzler asks you to identify what is in the image and when it was taken.

The Global Maps collection contains sixteen animated maps depicting changes over time of things like sea surface temperatures, land temperatures, snow cover, rainfall, and carbon monoxide levels in the atmosphere. You can play the animations online or download them as QuickTime files. You can also download the data sets that were used in the construction of the animations.

Applications for Education
NASA's Earth Observatory has a small set of seven lesson plans for elementary school and middle school use. The lessons plans cover biomes, air quality, and water quality. Having students try the image puzzler could be a good way to get them to use their knowledge of geography and use Google Earth to solve the puzzle.