Lab 6: A Year in the Life of the Earth System

Part B: Identify Relationships Between Components of the Earth System

In this part of the investigation, you will use ImageJ to animate images from two variables side-by-side, looking for possible relationships that are occurring throughout the most recent complete year. NOTE: If you are unable to download the most current data from NEO, scroll to the bottom of the page for alternate instructions, using example files for the year 2017. For this activity, you will work in groups assigned by your instructor.

  • Group 1: Solar Insolation/Land Surface Temperature Comparison
  • Group 2: Sea Surface Temperature (SST)/Solar Insolation Comparison
  • Group 3: Vegetation Index/Water Vapor Comparison

  1. Create new folders on your computer to hold the images you will download. Name your folders to match the datasets you will download (Insolation, Land Temp, SST, Vegetation, or Water Vapor).
  2. Select and display a monthly map for January of the last full year (e.g., if it is November 2018, you should select and display a map for January 2017) for your group's first assigned dataset. Download this image at a resolution of 0.5 degrees. Repeat for February through December so that you end up with a total of 12 images. See Part A if you need more detailed instructions about how to do this.
  3. Follow the same procedure to download your group's second assigned dataset.
  4. Launch ImageJ by double clicking on the application icon ImageJ icon or by selecting it from the Start menu.
  5. Choose File > Import > Image Sequence... and navigate to the folder where you stored your first set of 12 monthly images.
  6. Select the folder with your images and then click the Choose button. Specify the Sequence Options. Use all 12 images, beginning with image 1 and incrementing by one. Do not scale the images. Check Sort Names Numerically and click OK.
  7. Repeat the same procedure for your second set of 12 monthly images. You should now have two stacks of images open in ImageJ.
  8. Choose Image > Stacks > Tools > Combine to lock the two stacks together. Use the drop-down menus in the Combiner window to select the order (left-right) in which you want the stacks to appear and click OK.

  9. Choose File > Save As > Tiff... to save the combined stack.
  10. Choose Image > Stacks > Animation > Animation Options... to set the speed of the animation to one frame per second and animate your image stacks. You can also use the play/pause button at the bottom left of the stack window or use the slider bar at the bottom of the image to step through slices one at a time. 
  11. Watch the animation several times through, looking for relationships between the two datasets. Click on your group name below to view the scale bars for your image sequences.


  12. With your group, identify relationships between the annual cycles for your two variables by answering the following Stop and Think questions. 

    Stop and Think

    1: What relationships do you see between solar insolation and land surface temperature? Sea surface temperature and solar insolation? Vegetation index and water vapor?

    2: Do the relationships appear to be directly or inversely proportional? Explain. 
  13. Designate a spokesperson to report your group's observations.
  14. Share the relationships you have identified between the two variables with the rest of the class. Also share the methods you used to identify these relationships.

    Stop and Think

    3: Think back on what you've learned during this unit. Describe Earth as a complete system. What parts make up the Earth system? How are they connected at the local, regional, and global scales? Give specific examples of ways that each component of the Earth system impacts another component.