Mini Lesson

Stability and Change: Far Out Flora (2014)

Teacher Note

The Earth's system exemplifies stability and change. Change and rates of change can be observed and quantified over very short or long periods of time and at various spatial scales (e.g., from landscape level to global processes). Understanding stability and change in Earth processes contribute to a more complete understanding of the Earth system.

Across the continents, plants flourish or flounder depending on climate, precipitation and human activities. By using advanced satellite sensors that can detect the greenness of plants from space, scientists have amassed a decades-long record of the planet's terrestrial plant life. Data from the NASA/NOAA Suomi NPP satellite, the latest to make these measurements, was used to produce detailed images of plant activity around the world. The dense green areas on the globe represent thriving flora, whereas the light green or tan areas represent sparse plant life or struggling vegetation. The data will be incorporated into U.S. weather prediction models and could help provide early warnings of droughts and fire hazards. Watch the visualization to see how Earth's plant life changes over the course of a year.

Credit: NASA Scientific Visualization Studio