Analyzing Global Patterns with the Earth System Satellite Images

Global Satellite images that shows six different variables

What are the Earth System Satellite Images?

The Earth System Satellite Images 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.  The lessons have been adapted and modified from the GLOBE Earth System Poster Learning Activities

The Earth System Satellite Images features the following science variables:

  1. AerosolsThe aerosol optical depth 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. Different aerosols scatter or absorb sunlight to varying degrees, depending on their physical properties.
  2. Cloud Cover-This quantity describes the total percent cloud cover at all levels in the troposphere.
  3. Insolation (solar shortwave radiation)This quantity describes the monthly average precipitation rate, calculated by taking the total precipitation that falls at a location and dividing the number of days in a month. It does not mean that precipitation consistently falls at this rate throughout the month at any location.
  4. PrecipitationThis quantity 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. Clouds affect the rate of this energy flow, and the rate also varies with the seasons (higher rate in summer and lower rate in winter).
  5. Surface TemperatureThis quantity describes the monthly average temperature of air close to the surface. This temperature is typically measure at 2 meters above the surface. The surface air temperature is different than the skin temperature, which is the temperature of the topmost layer of the land, ocean, or ice surface. During the daytime, especially over some types of land surfaces exposed to direct sun, the surface air temperature is less than the skin temperature.
  6. Vegetation-This quantity measures the health of plants on the Earth's surface, by how much near-infrared radiation is reflected at the surface. Plants with green leaves (from chlorophyll) using photosynthesis reflect more near-infrared radiation, so like the leaf area index, the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) is more positive for healthy and highly productive plants.
  7. Chlorophyll- This quantity describes the concentration of chlorophyll in oceans. Chlorophyll is a pigment that plants use to absorb sunlight, key to the process of photosynthesis. The higher the concentration, the greater amount of plant life in the oceans.

You may view the series of satellite images that are available and select from Global or North America. 

  1. 2021 Earth System Satellite Images
    Global (animations)
    North America
  2. 2019 Earth System Satellite Images
  3. 2018 Earth System Satellite Images
  4. 2017 Earth System Satellite Images
  5. 2016 Earth System Satellite Images
  6. 2013 Earth System Satellite Images
  7. 2012 Earth System Satellite Images
    North America
  8. My NASA Data YouTube Collection: Select Years for Different Variables
  9. GLOBE Earth System Poster Learning Activities
    Activity Guide

How can I use the Earth System Satellite Images in the Classroom?
Do you need ideas for how to use these resources in your classroom and connect them with the Next Generation Science Standards?  
Look at our GLOBE Digital Earth System Poster Implementing the NGSS: