Analyzing Global Patterns with Earth System Poster Cards

Total Cloud Cover July 1, 2021

What are the Earth System Satellite Cards?

The Earth System Satellite Cards help students observe and analyze global Earth and environmental data, understand the relationship among different environmental variables, and explore how the data change seasonally and over longer timescales.  These Earth System images are inspired by, and continue the legacy of, the original GLOBE Earth System Poster (1987, 2007). 

How do I access the most recent card set?

The google slideGoogle Slide card deck features six months of the year for the following science variables. You may download one deck per variable at a time by visiting the links in the table below.

What science variables are featured in the Earth System Satellite Cards?

Solar (Shortwave) Radiation -The Monthly Flow of Energy into Surface by Shortwave Radiation (Watts per square meter) describes the total flow of energy from the Atmosphere to the surface by shortwave radiation, which is the visible light coming from the Sun. This is the flow of energy that warms the Earth's surface during the daytime. These data have a grid spacing of 1-degree longitude and 1-degree latitude.


shortwave radiation

See Link for
Solar Shortwave Cards.

Aerosol Optical Thickness  - Monthly Aerosol Optical Depth (dimensionless) is related to how much light is absorbed or scattered by aerosols (i.e., sea salt, dust, volcanic ash, sulfates, nitrates, black carbon, etc.) in the Atmosphere throughout the month. Different aerosols scatter or absorb sunlight to varying degrees, depending on their physical properties. These data have a grid spacing of 0.5 degrees longitude and 0.5 degrees latitude.



See Link for
Aerosol Optical Thickness Cards.

Cloud Cover - Monthly Total Cloud Coverage (percent coverage) This quantity describes the total percent cloud cover at all levels in the troposphere. These data have a grid spacing of 1-degree longitude and 1-degree latitude. The percent coverage is the amount of the sky that would be covered by all types of clouds if you were on the ground and you looked up.


cloud cover

See Link for
Cloud Cover Cards.

Surface Temperature - Monthly Daytime Surface (Skin) Temperature (degrees Celsius) describes the temperature of the land or ocean surface in the topmost layer (first few centimeters at the top of the surface). It is different than the surface air temperature, which is a measure of the temperature of the air closest to the surface. These data have a grid spacing of 1-degree longitude and 1-degree latitude.


surface skin temperature

See Link for
Surface Temperature Cards.

Vegetation - Monthly Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (dimensionless) is a measure of how much near-infrared radiation is reflected at the surface and is used to indicate the health of plants on Earth's surface.  These data have a grid spacing of 0.5 degrees longitude and 0.5 degrees latitude.



See Link for
Vegetation Cards.


Precipitation- Monthly Average Precipitation Rate (Satellite Observed) (millimeters per day) includes both rain and snowfall, with snowfall contributing as the amount of liquid created when the snow is melted down. The total monthly precipitation at any location can be calculated by taking the precipitation rate and multiplying by the number of days in a month. These data have a grid spacing of 0.5 degrees longitude and 0.5 degrees latitude.




See Link for
Precipitation Cards.

      How can I use the Earth System Satellite Cards in the Classroom?Earth Systems Activity Book

      These cards supplement the Earth System Poster Card Learning Activity Guide that helps the learner to analyze and interpret Earth Systems resources. 

      Do you need ideas for how to use these resources in your classroom and connect them with the Next Generation Science Standards?  See the links below:

      Teachers:  This is an NSTA-vetted resource.  Read the NSTA review of this lesson for ideas on how to adapt it for fuller NGSS alignment. 

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