EarthLabs > Earth System Science > Lab 3: Discovering Local Data

Lab 3: Discovering Local Data

This lab was adapted from the Earth Exploration Toolbook Chapter Using GLOBE Data to Study the Earth System


You probably pay attention to local weather reports, so you'll know if it's going to be a rainy day, or if it's going to snow or become very humid. If you spend enough time living in one place, you'll get to know what the seasons are like in a general way, what to expect, and what the common patterns are. For example, depending where you live, winter may mean frozen lakes, or a rainy season, or just no need for air conditioning.

In Lab 2, you made diagrams to illustrate interconnections among the four major components of the Earth system: the atmosphere, hydrosphere, pedosphere, and biosphere. In this lab, you will explore interconnections in another way: by making graphs. You will continue learning about the Earth system by studying weather and other environmental data that has already been collected by students from the Reynolds Jr. Sr. High School in Greenville, Pennsylvania, and posted on the Internet for GLOBE (Global Learning and Observations to Benefit the Environment).

The GLOBE Program is a hands-on, environmental science program. Students from all 50 states and more than 100 countries around the world participate by collecting local environmental data such as air temperature, cloud cover, or soil moisture content and posting that data on the GLOBE Web site. Reynolds students started collecting environmental data from the vicinity of their school and posting it on the GLOBE Program Web site in 1995. Since then they have posted more than 43,000 measurements on the site. Both scientists and students are now using the Reynolds data, as well as GLOBE data collected by students from all around the world, to learn more about Earth's natural system.

In this lab, you will learn how to find the data that Reynolds students have posted on the GLOBE Web site, and how to display that data using the GLOBE Graphing Tool. The graphs will help you to discover some basic environmental patterns, ones you may not have noticed or thought much about. These patterns will help you better understand some things about Earth's natural system and the way in which the parts of the system interact. Once you have learned something about the GLOBE Web site and Earth's natural system, you will have some new opportunities available to you:

  • You can use the GLOBE Web site to look for climate patterns at schools around the United States and in over 100 other countries. You may discover some interesting comparisons. For example, if you live close to 35 degrees North Latitude, you can compare the maximum daily temperatures at your school with those of a school in Santa Barbara, CA, Tokyo, Japan, or dozens of other locations.
  • If you have never collected and saved environmental data, you may discover schools within 50 miles of your own school that have a large data collection on the GLOBE Web site that you can study. You'll be able to investigate ways that the natural processes in your region-such as rain, solar heating, and natural vegetation-work together to influence the environment in which you live.

After completing this investigation, you should be able to:

  • use the GLOBE Web site to locate and study environmental data
  • use the GLOBE Graphing Tool to display data
  • describe the role of solar energy in the annual fluctuations of soil moisture
  • describe reservoirs and flows in the context of the Earth system

Keeping Track of What You Learn

Throughout these labs, you will find two kinds of questions.
  • Checking In questions are intended to keep you engaged and focused on key concepts and to allow you to periodically check if the material is making sense. These questions are often accompanied by hints or answers to let you know if you are on the right track.
  • Stop and Think questions are intended to help your teacher assess your understanding of the key concepts and skills you should be learning from the lab activities and readings.
Your teacher will let you know which answers you should record and turn in.