Teaching Notes

Example Output

map and statistics window Example Output
Map and statistics displayed on My World GIS map.

This map is centered on Toledo, OH and shows a 25 km buffer around cities with a population of over 50,000 people. Counties are color-coded by population. The GLOBE surface temperature data has been selected to show temperatures of short grass surfaces on December 3, 2008. The points are color-coded by temperature. Statistics are shown for surface temperature data collection sites inside and outside of the 25 kilometer buffer.

Grade Level

The chapter is appropriate for students in grades 6 through 12.

Learning Goals

After completing this chapter, students will be able to:


After completing this chapter, students will be able to successfully download any of the 50+ GLOBE Program datasets in the investigation areas of atmosphere, hydrology, land cover, phenology, and soils and import them into My World GIS for comparison and analysis. Users will be able to better predict, quantify, and understand the relationships between land use and environmental variables. The GIS skills obtained, including data import plus spatial and statistical analyses, can be applied to the study of any Earth science data sets.

Background Information

The GLOBE Program is a NASA-funded international Earth System Science initiative that involves students in over 110 countries worldwide who follow scientist-created protocols to collect atmosphere, hydrology, land cover, soils and phenology data near their school yard.

Student-collected surface temperature data is uploaded to the GLOBE website and is available for download by students and scientists to conduct authentic research projects. Surface temperature is measured with a hand-held Infrared Thermometer (IRT) that, when necessary, is wrapped in a thermal glove or has been placed outdoors for at least 30 minutes prior to data collection. The instrument is pointed at the ground to take surface temperature readings. GLOBE surface temperature data is available for download in tabular format (tab or comma delimited text files) and in shape-file format for use with GIS software.

Data is also available in graphical and map view formats through the GLOBE visualization tools and is available from 2003 - present. GLOBE scientists use student surface temperature observations in two ways:

In this EET chapter, students download GLOBE surface temperature data and import the data into My World GIS for analysis. Through the use of a variety of tools in My World GIS, they compare data from urban and rural schools to determine if cities are indeed warming up as predicted by the urban heat island effect.

The urban heat island effect is a phenomenon where the change in the land from natural vegetation to parking lots and buildings can cause the temperature of the area to increase (see figure below). The central part of a city can be 5-10 degrees C warmer than the surrounding countryside. Transpiration from vegetation, including trees and grass cools the air. The energy from the sun that shines on the surface is used to evaporate water and is not available to heat up the ground. In contrast, parking lots, roads and buildings dry out under sunshine, and all of the incoming energy from the sun heats the surface, warming it up more than it would otherwise. (Note: The time of day and time of year may influence whether pavement is warmer than grass.)

globe 02 Urban Heat Island Effect. Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory

Urban heat island effects are very dramatic in the Southwest United States. To learn more about the effect and strategies to mitigate its impact, read the information presented here: Urban Heat Island.

Instructional Strategies

This chapter is intended to be used in a computer lab setting with My World GIS installed and access to the Internet available (although once the data is downloaded Internet access is not necessary). Students could work independently, in pairs, or in small teams depending on computer availability or teacher preference. Although not implicitly included in the chapter, students could take on roles such as team leader, surface temperature scientist, and GIS expert.

Learning Contexts

This chapter can be used in Earth/Environmental Science courses, physics, geography, or social studies classes.

Science Standards

The following National Science Education Standards are supported by this chapter:

Grades 9-12

Geography Standards

The following U.S. National Geography Standards are supported by this chapter:

Mathematics Standards

The following National Mathematics Standards are supported by this chapter:

Time Required

Case Study: 10 minutes
Part 1: 40 minutes
Part 2: 45 minutes
Part 3: 30 minutes
Part 4: 40 minutes
Part 5: 30 minutes

Teaching Resources

The My World GIS project files are provided here and directly within the chapter at the end of each part.

Part 1: Urban_Heat_Island.m3vz ( 3.4MB May16 10)
Part 2: Urban_Heat_Island_Part_2.m3vz ( 3.4MB Jun2 10)
Part 3: Urban_Heat_Island_Part_3.m3vz ( 3.4MB Jun2 10)
Part 4: Urban_Heat_Island_Part_4.m3vz ( 3.5MB Jun2 10)
Part 5: Urban_Heat_Island_complete.m3vz ( 3.5MB May19 10)

Other Resources

The GLOBE Surface Temperature Protocol (Acrobat (PDF) 896kB May14 10) (PDF file) describes the science behind the data and the urban heat island effect.

Heat Island Effect/U.S. EPA from the Environmental Protection Agency is a comprehensive Web site with basic background information, additional resources, plus access to a database of community initiatives to mitigate the effects of urban heat islands.

The Heat Island Group at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory studies heat islands and has links to research and publications on their website.

Things are Heating Up! is an article about global warming and the urban heat island effect from EcoHealth 101.

Additional GLOBE datasets can be downloaded from GLOBE classic or GLOBE.

Celebrate with SATELLITES, The Science Teacher, January 2009, 76, 1, 27-33. Learn more about student research using surface temperature and remote sensing from this article written by Kevin Czajkowski, and Mikell Lynne Hedley, University of Toledo.

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