Earth Science

Jet Streams

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Learn about Earth’s jet streams with these visualizations from NASA. Fast-moving belts of wind, called jet streams, travel around the planet in wavy, meandering paths. In these animations, faster winds are colored red; slower winds are colored blue. These animations were created using NASA’s Modern Era Retrospective-Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) dataset. The first animation shows a global view of polar and subtropical jet streams. The second animation focuses on the polar jet stream over North America. The third animation focuses on the polar jet stream over Asia during a period of time in 2010.

To view the Background Essay, Teaching Tips, and Leveled Reader (LR) and Non-Visual (NV) supports for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

The Traverse: Searching for Crevasses | SALSA Antarctica

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The first phase of the SALSA Project involved a 100-mile traverse to subglacial Lake Mercer to deliver drilling equipment and establish a safe route. This route requires traveling through a shear zone, where movement of two glaciers causes cracks in the ice. These cracks are called crevasses and can be dangerous to the crew. The crew uses ground-penetrating radar (GPR) to navigate safely through the shear zone. This lesson explores what GPR is, how it works, how the SALSA crew uses it, and how similar radar technology could be used to explore other areas as well.

The Sun Heats Earth

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Observe how the Sun heats parts of Earth differently with these videos from NASA. Satellite and ground-based measurements show infrared measurements, surface air temperature, and sea surface temperature. In the first video, see the globe rotate into sunlight and observe the temperatures of the land, sea, and air over several days. In the second video, see the same data on a flat map of the world. Areas near the equator are warmest and there is a greater temperature difference between day and night on land compared to the oceans.

To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

Global Precipitation

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Learn about patterns in global precipitation with this gallery of data visualizations. The animation shows the distribution of precipitation around the world using rainfall and snowfall rates from NASA’s Integrated Multi-satellitE Retrievals for GPM data product (IMERG); it also shows water vapor data from the Goddard Earth Observing System Model (GOES). The map of global annual mean precipitation from 1979 through 2010 illustrates worldwide patterns in precipitation.

To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

Climate Change through History

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Learn about the history of human impact on Earth’s climate in this video from PERIL & PROMISE. This animated timeline explores changes in climate during periods of glaciation and the effect of human-generated greenhouse gases on our climate. The background essay in the support materials provides further details about the techniques used to analyze and interpret data about humanity’s role in climate change.

Additional support materials are available, including discussion questions and teaching tips for how to pre-teach graphing for students to prepare them to interpret the timeline in the animation. For more environmental education resources, visit the Human Impact on the Environment collection.

Killer Hurricanes | Hurricane Frequency Over Time

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Find out what scientists are learning about the relationship between sea surface temperature and the frequency of powerful North Atlantic hurricanes in this video from NOVA: Killer Hurricanes. By measuring the relative concentrations of two different oxygen isotopes present in the annual growth layers of fossil corals, scientists can discern relative near-surface ocean temperatures over thousands of years. Looking over the past 1,400 years, scientists have determined that the North Atlantic was generally warmer and had more major hurricanes in the first 700 years than in the more recent 700 years. Identifying trends like this can help scientists predict hurricane activity in the future. This resource is part of the NOVA Collection.

Killer Hurricanes | Hurricane Paths Over Time

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Learn how evidence of past tropical cyclones collected in an underground cave in Central America is being used to predict where future North Atlantic hurricanes will strike, in this video from NOVA: Killer Hurricanes. Amy Frappier is studying stalagmites, mineral deposits that form inside caves. She and her research team collected them in Belize. Stalagmite growth layers contain chemical traces of past hurricanes. Because hurricane rain contains lower levels of oxygen-18 (the heavier isotope) relative to oxygen-16 (“light” oxygen), a low ratio of oxygen-18 to oxygen-16 present in a stalagmite is evidence of a past hurricane. With data from caves across Central America and the Caribbean, Frappier’s analysis suggests a trend that she continues to explore: over a 450-year period, hurricanes have been moving northward from the equator toward the continental United States. This resource is part of the NOVA Collection.

Global Earthquake Activity and Seafloor Features

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Observe the location of global earthquake activity from 1980–1995 in this NASA animation as well as the location of seafloor features, such as ridges and troughs, in this NASA world map. Comparing the locations of earthquakes and seafloor features reveals patterns that appear to coincide. These patterns provide information for further study in middle school on how the ridges and trenches formed and why earthquakes occur.

To view the Background Essay, Student Handouts, and Teaching Tips for this media gallery, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

Into the Field | Archaeology Field School Abroad (Full Video)

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Into the Field is a documentary that examines the modern methods of archaeology. Filmmakers documented the work of University of South Dakota archaeology students, professors & professional archaeologists at Chavin De Huantar in Peru.

Continental Snow Cover

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Learn about continental snow cover in this video based on data collected by the MODIS sensor aboard NASA’s Terra satellite. The video includes data on world maps for January through December for 2013 through 2015. The maps, which use color coding to represent monthly snow-cover data, can be used to observe patterns of change across time and location.

To view the Background Essay and Teaching Tips for this video, go to Support Materials below. This resource was developed through WGBH’s Bringing the Universe to America’s Classrooms project, in collaboration with NASA. Click here for the full collection of resources.

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