Climate and Biomes

Part B: Biomes and Climatology Comparison

In this lab you will work with Google Earth, a dynamic interactive map visualization tool. You will observe temperature patterns, biome types, and climographs from selected cities around the world. As you work though the links and images in this activity, keep in mind how climate, a long-term average of weather patterns, shapes the life of a region.


About Google Earth

Google Earth is a freely available virtual globe program. It displays satellite images, aerial photographs, and graphic layers on personal computers by serving them over the Internet. Advanced versions of Google Earth are available for purchase, but this activity uses the free version. Note: If you already have Google Earth installed on your computer, you do not need to download and install another version. Download the project file and then go to the section below entitled: Launch Google Earth.

Download and save the Biomes and Climate project file

Before beginning to download the files and data for this lab, set up a folder to store all of your work. Name it "Biomes and Climate" and place it such that you can locate easily, such as on your Desktop or Documents folder.

  1. Click on the link below to download the Biomes and Climate3.kmz file to your computer. To accomplish this, right-click (PC) or control-click (Mac) the link below. Choose the option that will download the file to your computer. "Download Linked File..." "Save Link As..." or "Save Target As..." are common browser commands to accomplish this task. This is a large data file, so it may take several minutes to download. Biomes and Climate3.kmz (KMZ File 4.4MB Aug1 11)
  2. When the file has downloaded, locate it and place it in the folder that you set up for this lab.

Download, Install, and Launch Google Earth on your computer

  1. If your computer doesn't have Google Earth installed, download and install the free program. Access the Google Earth download page then download and install the free version of Google Earth for your operating system.
  2. Launch Google Earth by double-clicking its icon or choosing it from the Programs list under the Start menu.
  3. In Google Earth's menu panel on the left, under the Layers list, check the box in front of Borders and Labels to turn this layer on. At the bottom of the Layers list, click the More check box and select the Water Body Outlines.
  4. Choose Google Earth > Preferences (Mac) or Tools > Options... (PC), in the window that opens, click the General tab, and set the display option to allow files to "Show web results in an external browser." Click Apply and OK to save the settings.
  5. Minimize your Google Earth program and return to your desktop or documents folder to open and view the Biomes and Climate KMZ file, which you downloaded earlier.
  6. If necessary, launch Google Earth by double-clicking its icon on the desktop or dock.
  7. Choose File > Open and navigate to the Climate and Biomes3.kmz file.
  8. Turn on the Terrestrial Biomes (Olson et al. 2001) layer. Explore the locations of biomes around the globe. You may need to turn the Legend on and off for better viewing.
  9. With the Terrestrial Biomes layer selected (active), use the slider underneath the Places panel to make the layer more or less transparent. Use the Zoom and Move map tools to explore the relationship between biome types, elevation, and proximity to water bodies. Note the patterns that emerge between biome type and geography. Record the patterns you observe in your science notebook.
  10. Choose View > Grid to turn on the lines of latitude and longitude. Recall the Hadley Cells Hadley Cells: a direct, thermally driven and symmetric (north and south of the equator) circulation pattern that is influenced by Earth's rotation. and patterns of precipitation that you observed in Lab 3. With this in mind, notice the areas where deserts are located and areas where it is especially rainy. What geographical lines do these rainy regions fall between?
  11. When you are done exploring, turn the globe to re-center the view on North America.
  12. Turn on the Climate around the World layer. You will see a number of white flags appear on the globe. Click on the flags to see images of the climate zones as well as links to climographs of the cities.
  13. In the window that opens click the climograph link to open a climograph in a new browser window.
  14. Choose three or more cities that are at similar latitudes across the country and compare their climate and biome type. For example choose: San Diego, CA; Phoenix, AZ; Lubbock, TX; Jackson, MS; and Charleston, SC to compare.
  15. Then, choose two cities that share a line of longitude, and compare their climographs. How does geographic variation affect climate patterns?
  16. Close the tabs or windows when you are done exploring