Tag Archives: Climate

Seasonal Changes in Snow Cover Map

This map in ArcGIS Online shows snow cover for the globe as it changes throughout the course of the year.  The patterns the map reveals is fascinating.  What is the effect of latitude on snow cover?  How does snow cover in the Northern Hemisphere compare to that in the Southern Hemisphere?  Which month had more snow on the ground than any other, in Canada, versus in Sweden?  What is the effect of elevation on snow cover?  During a specific month, which of the world’s major cities had snow on the ground?  Measure the extent in square kilometers for each of the months for specific countries and graph your results.

This map features NASA’s Next Generation Blue Marble imagery in a set of 12 monthly composite images of the entire earth, using 500-meter-resolution imagery from the MODIS satellite.  More information is available than just the snow cover.  These monthly images reveal other seasonal changes on the land surface, such as the greening up and dying back of vegetation in the temperate regions such as North America and Europe, and the dry and wet seasons in the tropics.  The Blue Marble Next Generation imagery was produced by Reto Stöckli, NASA Earth Observatory (NASA Goddard Space Flight Center).  The data is from 2004.  For more information about this data layer, see this description.  The data layer can be added to any map that you are analyzing in ArcGIS Online, and compared to other data layers, such as mean annual precipitation, or ecoregions.   If you prefer to show the data as a web mapping application, see this app.

How might you use this map and its information in your instruction?

Seasonal changes map in ArcGIS Online.

Seasonal changes map in ArcGIS Online.

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Analyzing Real-Time Weather and Maps

A new activity based on ArcGIS Online invites students to analyze real-time weather data. I wrote the activity for university students but upper secondary students with some GIS background could use it as well, particularly if beforehand they work through the How’s the Weather? Geoinquiry.

Using real-time weather feeds from NOAA, the activity asks students to note the relationships between pressure, temperature, wind speed, wind direction, proximity to coasts, latitude, and elevation.  Students also create interpolated surfaces from the real time weather station data, classify and symbolize data in a number of ways, and predict upcoming weather at specific locations.  ArcGIS Online enables students to quickly and easily analyze spatial data such as this.  Weather is an engaging topic, and the activity connects to geography, earth science, and meteorology courses and curricula, and in the process, fosters skills in critical thinking, GIS, spatial analysis, and spatial data.

Analyzing current weather data and maps in ArcGIS Online.

Analyzing current weather data and maps in ArcGIS Online.

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Using Mathematics, Web Maps, and Geography to Investigate Global Temperature Extremes

In my last post, I described some simple but powerful activities that you can use with students to engage them in mathematics using ArcGIS Online.   What else can you do with mathematics with ArcGIS Online?  Using another activity I have written, I invite students to investigate global temperature extremes.   The activity begins by asking two questions:  (1)  Can you work effectively with numbers so that they can understand extreme temperatures around the world?  (2) Can you compare and interpret information so that you can understand patterns over space and time?

Students conduct seven mathematics investigations in this activity:

1. Analyze temperature extremes data around the world including the temperature reading and the date.
2. Examine the relationship between the location (primarily: Altitude and latitude) of the extreme temperatures and the value of the temperature, and whether that temperature was a high or a low extreme.
3. Order and compare numbers in temperature data tables and on maps.
4. Round numbers in temperature data tables and maps.
5. Visually represent numbers in temperature data tables and maps.
6. Add and subtract whole numbers and decimals.
7. Compare temperature extremes over time by constructing graphs.

The activity begins by asking the students to describe the hottest and then the coldest day they have experienced, and what they did to cool down or warm up.  Next, using a map of temperatures plotted as points on a world map in ArcGIS Online, they describe the spatial pattern of global maximum and minimum temperature extremes.  Then, exploring the attribute table in tandem with the map, they answer the following questions:  ”What is the range of maximum temperatures shown on this map (between the lowest maximum and the highest maximum)? How many times hotter is the highest maximum temperature than the lowest maximum temperature? Round your final answer to the nearest degree. Show your work.”

Students then sort the table on latitude and graph the temperatures by latitude, and then create a histogram of temperature extremes by month of the year, using these graphs to make connections between the data, the map, climate, and seasons.   They zoom in to selected extreme temperature locations and examine the effect of local topography and proximity to oceans on extreme temperatures.   They also examine the temporal components of the data to determine the existence and length of heat waves and cold snaps.

What else could you do with this data or with other weather related data to connect science, geography, and mathematics using ArcGIS Online?

Examining global temperature extremes with ArcGIS Online.

Examining global temperature extremes with ArcGIS Online.

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New K-12 Climate Science and Mapping Careers Video

Climate change is a geographic problem, and we believe solving it takes a geographic solution.  Find case studies, e-Books, mapping tools, and more resources from Esri at http://www.esri.com/industries/climate or explore the Esri Climate Resilience App Challenge 2014.

Ned Gardiner, NOAA

Virtual Job Shadow in conjunction with Esri Education and NOAA brings climate scientist, Ned Gardiner  to K-12 CTE students around the country interested in mapping and climate science.

The NOAA National Climatic Data Center keeps the world’s largest climate data archive, and provides climatological analysis to every sector of the economy. And while climate change is one of the most debated topics on Planet Earth, the controversy has little to with the scientific data being collected. It’s Ned Gardiner’s job to take all that data and help us understand what it all means. Do not miss this incredible job shadowing experience!

See this video and other GIS-STEM career videos at the Esri EdCommunity’s career video page.

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Fun with GIS #105: EcoRegions, Drought, and iPad

A year ago, I wrote a blog about using ArcGIS Online to explore ecoregions, and doing it on an iPad, in addition to a regular computer. I want to enhance the map by adding another key layer: drought status. I’m interested in learning which ecoregions face a near-term issue.

The U.S. government runs a portal about drought, with maps, data, news, and links. But what if you just want to see drought data added into your ecoregion map? Think back to another recent blog entry that walked through finding and adding special services. This time, we need to find some drought data. By searching the information, links, and applications at the drought portal, I found the National Climate Data Center’s web service for the Palmer Drought Severity Index. See the combined map.

Finally, since the two color layers compete, I used the idea from another blog entry to create a three-panel map, showing a location by terrain, drought, and ecoregion. And all of this can be done on an iPad, in addition to a regular computer.

Whether working with a regular computer or a mobile device, and long-term or short-term data, and cultural or physical data, making these analytical maps with disparate resources helps students build critical content knowledge and technical skills that they can use for solving problems. This is why GIS is important in STEM education and beyond.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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Fun with GIS #98: Tree Planters

It’s Thanksgiving. Seven miles above the Pacific Ocean, I’ve been flying for hours, with hours still to go. Taking off from Los Angeles, we were quickly out over the blue. At over 500 miles per hour, this miracle of aviation makes “short work” of a trip to Hawaii, but the time, distance, and implications are mind-bending.

Our collective impact on the world is staggering. Seven billion people, with more every minute. Despite the magical nature of such a trip (“Walking in the Air” from “The Snowman” plays in my head), I know I too have an impact. Our global quest for “more” consumes the valuable and multiplies waste.

Gazing over this expanse of soft blue, yet knowing that it grows warmer, more ravaged, more acidic, bigger, and less predictable, and what it means to us all, gives me pause. It is not always easy being a geographer, constantly seeing patterns and relationships, large and small.

Along these silver wings, I spy thousands of tiny rivets. Each plays a role. What would happen if one were lost? Or 25, at random sites, or concentrated? How many rivets are expendable?

So, in this special week, I offer my thanks to the tree-planters among us — those around the world who seek sustainable, long-term solutions, conscious of the present, but committed to a better collective future, knowing there is but one dinner table, and we are all together. The gardeners and educators, the scientists and engineers, the peacemakers and poets. We face enormous obstacles, and the path grows more arduous each day. We must all choose carefully.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Esri Education Manager

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New Wind-Based Curriculum Uses Several Scales and GIS

A series of five new curricular activities use the spatial perspective and GIS to delve into wind and wind energy from a continental to a local scale. Four of the activities use ArcGIS Online and one uses ArcGIS desktop version 10, and all of them reside on the ArcLessons library. One might say these activities are “wind-driven!”

Analyzing Current Wind Speed and Direction in North America  uses ArcGIS Online as a tool for examining the spatial or geographic dimensions of current wind speed and direction in North America. Compare your own data gathered at your location to the online current wind speed and direction. Consider why and where winds blow.

Siting a Wind Farm in Indiana uses ArcGIS Online for siting a wind farm in Indiana. Use variables such as proximity to existing powerlines, population density, and other criteria to determine the ideal site for a wind farm.

Exploring the San Gorgonio Wind Farm uses ArcGIS Online for exploring the famous, enormous San Gorgonio Wind Farm in California. Consider why terrain, wind speed and direction, and population base make this the ideal place for a wind farm through analyzing local maps and a video filmed on site. The activity ends by inviting you to investigate a different wind farm and create a map, telling its story using ArcGIS Online.

Siting a Wind Turbine on Your School Campus uses ArcGIS Online as a tool for siting a wind turbine on a typical school campus. Consider relief, proximity to buildings, wind speed, local access, and other variables, first by examining Platte Valley High School in Colorado, and then your own campus.

Siting wind farms in Colorado with GIS
uses ArcGIS version 10 as your primary investigative tool, considering the location of cities, the Continental Divide, highways, rivers, counties, wind speed and power, land use, and elevation. Data layers are from Esri, the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, and the Colorado Department of Transportation.

How might you use these activities to encourage spatial thinking, to teach and learn about wind and wind energy, and to foster GIS skills?

- Joseph Kerski, Esri Education Manager

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Analyzing the Spatial and Temporal Aspects of Tornadoes Using GIS

Spring in North America brings not only new flowers, but a new crop of tornadoes. The 2011 tornado season has already been horrific, and our hearts go out to all those affected. Like most natural phenomena, tornadoes exhibit a spatial pattern on a global, regional, and local scale, and a temporal pattern depending on season, time of day, and duration. Both the spatial and temporal components can be examined and understood with the use of GIS.

To do this, I have written three lessons and compiled data sets that may help do just that. The first, Investigating Historical and 1 Modern Tornado uses ArcGIS Online (http://www.arcgis.com, search on “Tuscaloosa owner:jjkerski”) to examine pre- and post-tornado imagery that can be toggled on and off or adjusted in terms of opacity. Using these sobering data sets, the width and length of the Tuscaloosa tornado can be examined, as well individual building types affected, and historical tornadoes by decade throughout the USA. The second, “Investigating Historical Tornadoes Using ArcGIS”, allows for further investigation, which reveals that while more common on the Great Plains and interior lowlands, tornadoes have occurred in nearly every state, and are not as uncommon in the mountain west as one might think. Contrary to popular opinion, the data also reveals that Kansas is not the area with the highest density of tornado outbreaks. Do you know what state has the highest density? See below.

Selecting the tornadoes by month shows the seasonal ebb and flow of the outbreak of tornadoes, starting from coastal areas near the Gulf of Mexico in January and increasing to a spatial maximum in July of each year. The numeric maximum occurs in April, three months earlier than the spatial maximum. During which six hour period do you think the most tornadoes touch down—between midnight and 6:00am, 6:00am to Noon, Noon to 6:00pm, or 6:00pm to midnight? Examining the historical data reveals that the tornado causing the most injuries (1,740) occurred in northern Texas in 1979 and the one causing the most fatalities (116) occurred in northeast Michigan in 1953. The lesson also invites you to discover in which elevation range tornadoes are most common, and the difference between tornado touchdowns and tornado tracks.

The third lesson invites students to download and analyze a single day of tornadoes. Using data from the NOAA Storm Prediction Center, the lesson begins with an analysis of 22 April 2011, the day of the tornado that caused damage at the St Louis airport. Analysis reveals that the airport tornado was only one point along a line of tornadoes that day in that region. Wind and hail for that day are also analyzed, including the determination of the mean center and standard deviational ellipse for all storm types. The lesson concludes with the students’ selecting a different day, downloading the CSV files from NOAA, and mapping and comparing them to 22 April’s storms.


-Joseph Kerski, Education Manager

Answer: According to this dataset, tornado density is highest in sections of Oklahoma.

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The Nature Conservancy Launches Atlas of Global Conservation

<IMG height=319 src="http://downloads2.esri.com/blogs/images/info_6836.jpg" width=216 align=right

In time for Earth Day 40, I recently received a copy of the Nature Conservancy’s new Atlas of Global Conservation. It is an amazing synthesis of geographic data from a myriad of authoritative, scientific sources. The volume explores terrestrial, freshwater, and marine ecoregions/realms and then dives into habitats ranging from forest to cave to deep ocean. The narratives and global maps examine the distribution of plants and animals, and then bring us into the picture through a lens of population and changes that humanity, knowingly and unintentionally, is bringing to the planet, its realms, and its living things.

If my description of the document ended with the above paragraph, it might give rise to the sense that the atlas is a picture of gloom and doom. This is not the case. The book devotes ample coverage to actions being taken on an individual to global scale, deeds that are making a difference, and some of which have been spearheaded by the Nature Conservancy through its conversation and outreach efforts (an organization that I’m proud to say I have been a member of for nearly 20 years.)

This does not mean that all is well. Hardly. The conclusion provides a succinct summarization of the three broad drivers testing the present and the future: population growth, overconsumption, and climate change, and importantly it speaks to the atlas’s subtitle: “Changes, Challenges, and Opportunities to Make a Difference.” I particularly liked the importance the summary places on having geographic data and the maps the volume presents in helping us decide our future. Here’s a bit of the text.

The situation is serious and the future can look bleak, but this atlas holds another lesson. The maps can be seen in many ways as a series of symptoms and a diagnosis…Today we stand at a unique point in history, where we understand what is happening. We can even model and predict consequences of future actions…we now have the capacity to drive change in a positive direction.

As I was examining the book, I spied a note indicating that there is a companion Web site, http://www.nature.org/tncscience/maps/. Once on the site, to my delight, I discovered an ArcGIS Server Silverlight (requires plug-in) application which presents interactive versions of atlas maps. (Note: The site indicates that more maps are to come.) Here are a couple of the maps.

As the atlas concludes, “What will these maps look like in the future? It’s ours to decide.” I hope you take actions that help change the maps in a positive way.

George Dailey, ESRI Education Program Manager

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Fun with GIS #44: Powerful Work with Modest Tools

Last week, I visited a classroom in Juneau, AK. The teacher (let’s call her “Kay”) was preparing to have her class look at some of impacts of climate change. On the nearby Juneau Icefield, two neighboring glaciers are behaving differently … one advancing, one retreating. How can this be? Can it continue? Ahhh, that’s science and geography!

Kay was a little discouraged about not having good access to strong PCs on which to do the best mapping. I assured her that, with her vision and ArcExplorer Java Edition for Education (“AEJEE”) — an aging workhorse but still powerful intro geographic information system (GIS) tool for Windows and Macintosh — she and her students could accomplish a lot. In fact, I contend that it’s vastly more impressive seeing powerful work done on modest tools than modest work done on powerful tools.

As a college student, 35 years ago, I spent a summer on the ice field, and this was my first time back. I hiked around for a couple of hours gathering GPS coordinates and taking pictures. Then I went back to my computer, converted the points and tracks to shapefiles, and displayed them along with some data downloaded from the Internet to my hard drive (roads, rivers, waters), and some data used on the fly (USGS Seamless Elevation), using AEJEE on a Mac, like Kay does.




The Juneau region, with the icefield inland. See the Mendenhall north of Juneau and Taku to the east.




Part of Juneau between the airport and the Mendenhall.

The Mendenhall has been retreating for a century, while the Taku has pushed steadily forward. How can this happen, will it continue, and what does it mean for the residents? That’s what Kay and her students will be exploring.

In a week when a U.S. Congressman demonstrated a rather dreadful grasp of science and geography (regarding the physical stability of the island of Guam), it should be apparent to all that we need our youth (and leaders!) to see the world holistically, using powerful geographic tools to explore and understand better the science about the world around them, and we need educators like Kay with the excitement and energy to bring it to them.

- Charlie Fitzpatrick, Co-Manager, ESRI Schools Program

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