MY NASA DATA Lesson:

Forest Fires

Aerial view of a forest fire in Montana

Image courtesy NASA

Purpose:
You work for the Department of Forestry. One of your major concerns as a Ranger is forest fires. Using NASA data, you will need to determine areas of high risk for forest fire development.
Grade Level: 3 – 5
Estimated Time for Completing Activity: One 45-minute class period.
Learning Outcomes:
  • Students will observe Surface Scene Type data (biomes) and Monthly Equivalent Water Thickness Land Mass Change Data from 2006
  • Students will evaluate changes in equivalent water thickness as compared to biome location for a specific continent
  • Students will draw conclusions about how equivalent water thickness levels will affect possibility for forest fire
  • Students will infer best locations to monitor for possible forest fire occurrence
  • Students will manipulate data sets from MyNASAData website
Prerequisite
  • Knowledge of longitude and latitude
  • Knowledge of basic directional words
  • Knowledge of continent names and basic location
National Standards:
  • Science Content: C Life Science
  • Science Content: E Science and Technology
  • Science Content: F Science in Personal and Social Perspectives
  • Science Content: G History and Nature of Science
Virginia Standards of Learning:
  • Sci3.10c: The student will investigate and understand that natural events and human influences can affect the survival of species. Key concepts include the effects of fire, flood, disease, and erosion on organisms.
  • Sci4.8d: The student will investigate and understand important Virginia natural resources. Key concepts include forests, soil, and land.
Vocabulary:
Lesson Links:
Background:

Taking a look at Equivalent Water Thickness Change data can be an important step in predicting potential forest fires. Negative values of this parameter mean that an area is dryer than normal; positive values mean it is wetter than normal. The more negative the value of equivalent water thickness, the more susceptible a normally wet forested biome might be to forest fires.
Surface Scene Type data is a depiction of biomes around the world. The classification system used in this data is included in the lesson links for your reference. You will notice that it lists 18 different biomes, which may be different than what you are used to. There are many ideas about classifying biomes. For this activity, you will use the system employed by the CERES/SARB satellite instrument team.
To accurately complete your task, you need to reference Equivalent Water Thickness Change data as well as Surface Scene Type data.

Procedure:

1. To gain Access the Live Access Server (Advanced Edition) click on the link found in the lesson links section above.
2. If you are not automatically prompted with parameter choices click on, Land Surface, Surface Cover, and then select select Surface Scene Type (CERES/SARB)
3. Using the double downward arrow above the navigation map to the left of the screen, select a continent of choice to study.
4. Click on the ‘Update Plot’ radio button to see your changes as you make them along the way.
5. Save the image by right clicking on the image and selecting ‘Save Image As’
6. Return to datasets (click on the ‘Choose Dataset’)
7. Click on Land Surface, Surface Conditions and then select Monthly Equivalent Water Thickness Land Mass Change (GRACE)
8. Using the double downward arrow above the navigation map to the left of the screen, select a continent of choice to study.
9. Change the date to Feb 2006
10. Click the radio button next to ‘Update Plot’
11. View both data maps side by side.
12. Respond to the prompts under ‘Questions’

Questions:

What areas on your continent have the highest values of equivalent water thickness change? (use cardinal directions in your description)

What areas seem to have the lowest values of equivalent water thickness change?

What biomes seem to correlate with high equivalent water thickness change? Which biomes seem to correlate with lower equivalent water thickness change?

What areas on your maps have both a forest type biome and a negative equivalent water thickness change?

Put it together: What areas would you choose to monitor for possible wildfires? Why? (don’t forget to reference your data)

Extensions:

1. On the internet, look up forest fire records for your continent. (See Lesson Links) How does this information compare to your MyNasaData?

Lesson plan contributed by Becky Schnekser, MY NASA DATA Team

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