Lab # Earth shots: Examining Environmental Changes with Satellite Imaging


II. Background: Space exploration has paved the way for placing man-made objects in orbit around Earth.  Satellites have changed many parts of our lives.  The way we communicate, travel, weather forecasting, entertainment have all been improved by the presence of satellites. Satellites have enabled us to have birds-eye view of the Earth and study changes on Earth from that perspective.


III. Purpose: To enable students to come to know the usefulness of satellites and for students to come to better understand certain environmental changes.


IV. Materials: Internet connection, PC and your knowledge of Earth Science.


V. Procedure:

1.   Direct your web browser to:

2.   Read the passage on the right of the screen and pay special attention to the segments “Reading Earth shots” and “What the colors mean?”.

3.   Use the article, “Garden City Irrigation”, to help you learn how to understand and navigate within this format of satellite imagery and information.

4.   Answer #1-4 in the Question section based on the “Garden City Irrigation” article.

5.   Read the “Mt. St. Helens’ volcanic eruption” article.  Get there by clicking on the small map icon in the lower portion of the screen.  Mt. St. Helens is in the Northwestern corner of the USA.  If you move your cursor over the yellow circle, the title will pop up.  Single click on it.

6.  Answer questions #5-7 based on the images and article on Mt. St.        Helens.

7. Read the “Filchner Ice Shelf, Antarctica” article.  Get there by               clicking on the small map icon in the lower portion of the screen.        This article is the only yellow circle in Antarctica.  I hope you        enjoy this article, it helped me understand glacier better.

8. Answer questions 8-11 based on the images and article on the        Filchner Ice Shelf.

       9. Complete the conclusion by writing a paragraph.


VI. Questions:

       1. Why do Landsat images show differences in Earth’s surface with                            different colors?





       2. What color or appearance do the following types of surfaces have:

              ~ water _______________________

              ~ pavement/urban areas ____________________________

              ~ agricultural land _________________________________

       3. Why are the agricultural areas (farms) generally round?





       4. The article mentions the Ogallala Aquifer.  An aquifer is an                           underground geologic formation (layers of rock) that contains                   and transmits large quantities of groundwater.  The Ogallala                    Aquifer stretches underground from Texas to the Dakotas!  That               is basically the entire north-south distance of the USA.  How will               the changes in Garden City farming affect this aquifer?






       5. I remember this eruption.  I was only ten years old, but I remember               seeing the pictures on the news and the dark haze that was                   caused by all the volcanic ash in the atmosphere.  How could                   New York’s sky conditions be affected by a volcanic eruption                   almost 3,000 miles away?






6.    Explain how and why the amount of vegetation changed from the     1973 image to 1983.







7.    Explain how and why the amount of vegetation changed from the     1983 image to 1996.






8.    Describe the cycle of water in this article on glaciers.








9.    What happened to iceberg A24?  What is still happening today?







10. What evidence of the movement of the icebergs did ships observe     with their SONAR?






11. How did the Soviets (Russians) prove it is not a good idea to build     on an ice shelf (glacier)?





Other references

Mt. St. Helen’s:

The USGS site provides an on-line resource:


The USGS offers a collection of "Antarctica Resources on the Internet" at

The 1986 iceberg annotations are based on spreadsheet data from the National Ice Center, at



VII. Conclusion: Write a paragraph about a part of this activity, in which you learned something or found something interesting.