Cutting Edge > Topics > Climate Change > Visualizations > Impact of the Seasons on Earth Systems

Impact of the Seasons on Earth Systems

Compiled by Mark Francek (more info) at Carleton College (more info) (SERC) and Central Michigan University (more info)

Find animations showing how the seasons impact temperature patterns, soils, and the hydrologic cycle.

Click here to browse the complete set of Visualization Collections.


Examine infrared images that show variation in surface temperature (more info) Find a somewhat blurry Flash animation exhibiting five years worth of surface average temperatures. Note seasonal land/water temperature contrasts. The animation can be paused and rewound to emphasize important points.


Latent Heat Flux (more info) This animation is available in an animated GIF or Flash formats and shows monthly variations in energy in the form of latent heat. This animation shows the energy absorbed due to evaporation. Interesting patterns to observe are higher values over the Gulf Stream and lower values in upwelling areas, like off the coasts of Labrador and Peru. In the Flash format, the animation can easily be rewound or paused to stress important points.


Precipitation Rate (more info) A GIF or Flash animation displays the actual monthly amount of precipitation (mm) reaching the surface. Focus on seasonal changes in precipitation associated with the north-south movement of the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITC) in Africa and monsoonal patterns on the Indian subcontinent. In the Flash format, the animation can easily be rewound or paused to stress important points.


Net Radiation and Vegetation NDVI (more info) This site allows you to combine the NDVI vegetation index with Net Solar Radiation values. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index, or NDVI, is an index of green leaf density. The higher the value, the more luxuriant the vegetation. This is but one of many animated datasets that can be combined to introduce correlations and interactions between radiant energy and the biosphere.


Runoff/Water Surplus (more info) This animation, available in the Flash or GIF format, shows monthly water surpluses. An interesting point for students to ponder is why Antarctica, one of the few areas with constant water surpluses, is classified as a polar desert. In the Flash format, the animation can easily be rewound or paused to stress important points.


Soil Moisture (more info) This Flash animation renders the pattern of soil moisture storage at the surface. The increase/decrease in soil moisture are especially apparent for the in Africa because of the annual north-south march of the wet InterTropical Convergence Zone (ITC). In the Flash format, the animation can easily be rewound or paused to stress important points.


Air Temperature (more info) Seasonal temperature variations can be explained in terms of the latitudinal and seasonal variations in the surface energy balance. The pattern of temperatures is a function of net short-wave radiation, net long-wave radiation, sensible heat flux, latent heat flux, and change in heat storage. Note that the highest temperatures occur not at the equator landmasses, where it is often cloudy, but at 20 degrees north and south of the equator along zones of semi-permanent high pressure zones where skies are generally clear. The animation can be paused and rewound to emphasize important points.

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