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Tiny plants called phytoplankton grow in the sunlit waters of the ocean's surface. Like all plants, phytoplankton contain chlorophyll, a pigment that transforms sunlight into energy the plant can use. This same pigment gives phytoplankton their greenish color.

One of the key "vital signs" of Earth's vegetation is the total green leaf area for a given ground area. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites collects global Leaf Area Index (LAI) data on a daily basis.

Students analyze historic plant growth data (i.e., peak bloom dates) of Washington, D.C.’s famous cherry blossom trees, as well as atmospheric near surface temperatures as evidence for explaining the phenomena of earlier peak blooms in our nation’s capital.

Energy Cycle

Energy from the Sun is the driver of many Earth System processes. This energy flows into the Atmosphere and heats this system up It also heats up the Hydrosphere and the land surface of the Geosphere, and fuels many processes in the Biosphere.

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