Seasons and Biomes Frequently Asked Questions
- What is the Seasons and Biomes project?
The Seasons and Biomes project is an inquiry- and project-based initiative that monitors seasons, specifically their interannual variability in order to increase pre-college students' understanding of the Earth system. This project connects GLOBE students, teachers, and communities with educators and scientists from the International Arctic Research Center (IARC), NASA Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM), and Terra Satellite Missions.
- What is a biome?
A biome is a climatic and geographically defined area of ecologically similar communities of plants, animals, and soil organisms, often referred to as ecosystems. Biomes are defined based on factors such as plant structures (such as trees, shrubs, and grasses), leaf types (such as broadleaf and needles), plant spacing (forest, woodland, savanna), and other factors like climate (Source: Biomics.org). See the Land Biomes sheet for a description of each land biome.
- Why are there seasons?
All seasonal changes are driven by shifts in the intensity of sunlight reaching Earth's surface (insolation). Day length is a reasonably accurate way to gauge the level of insolation and has long been used to understand when one season ends and the next one begins. The changing day length results from the Earth's axis of rotation being inclined 23.5o with respect to the plane of its orbit around the sun. Latitude also has a powerful influence in determining seasonal conditions because the duration and directness of insolation changes with latitude. Additionally, continental and marine climate, wind direction, and geographical features all influence local seasonal patterns. Please refer to the Introduction of the Earth as a System Investigation in the GLOBE Teachers Guide for a more detailed discussion.
- Why is it important to study seasonal change?
Change in season length is an indicator, as well as an effect, of climate change and reflects the variations that are occurring in the cycling of energy in the global environment. Seasonal change profoundly affects the balance of life in ecosystems and directly impacts essential human activities such as agriculture and subsistence.
- What is a GLC in the Seasons and Biomes project?
A GLC is a Global Learning Community and it is a network of GLOBE schools organized by biomes. Students in each GLC will monitor their seasons through field campaigns using GLOBE protocols that have been adapted specifically for their biomes. In addition, ice and mosquito phenology protocols will be adapted for Arctic and Tropical regions, respectively. The project will target two GLCs each year and will focus on the Tundra and Taiga biomes initially.
- What is the overall objective of the project?
The overall program goal is to increase students understanding of the Earth system by expanding the current GLOBE network and adapting current protocols to make them applicable to specific biomes. This project enabled students to participate in the International Polar Year (IPY) (2007-2009) through field campaigns conducted by students in the Polar region and web casts between IPY scientists and the entire GLOBE community.
- How will students benefit from participating in the Seasons and Biomes project?
Students will learn more about their local environment, and its relationship to other biomes, by collaborating with Earth systems scientists and other schools as they conduct their own investigations.
- How will student data be used by researchers?
This project will contribute critically needed science measurements to validate satellite data. These measurements are important for regional climate change research, prevention and management of diseases, and to better understand the water and carbon cycles.
- Which GLOBE protocols will be used in this project?
This project utilizes many of the GLOBE protocols, specifically:
- Phenology (budburst, green-up and green-down)
- Atmosphere (air and soil temperature, precipitation, snow)
- Soil Characterization (surface and deeper if possible)
- Land Cover (MUC classification)
In addition, ice and mosquito phenology protocols will be developed for Arctic and Tropical regions, respectively.
- What is IPY?
IPY, the International Polar Year 2007-2009, began in March 2007 and ended two years later in March 2009. Conceived at the grass roots level by polar researchers and educators, IPY was endorsed by the International Council for Science and the World Meteorological Organization. IPY 2007-2009 was a coordinated, international effort to improve our knowledge and understanding of polar processes and the role of the Polar Regions in the global environmental system. IPY included scientific studies of the physical, biological and human dimensions of the Arctic and the Antarctic.
Further information about IPY is available on the Worldwide Web at www.ipy.gov and www.ipy.org.
- Why is IPY important?
The Polar Regions are highly sensitive to climate change. For example, the three fastest warming regions on the planet in the last two decades have been Alaska, Siberia and parts of the Antarctic Peninsula. The large and rapid environmental changes that have been observed in the Polar Regions raise real concern for the future of polar ecosystems, Arctic society and the global climate.
The Polar Regions might be remote, but they have profound significance for the Earth's climate. However, we still remain remarkably ignorant of many aspects of how polar climate operates and interacts with polar and global environments, ecosystems and societies. To have any hope of understanding the current global climate and what might happen in the future, we need to possess better knowledge and understanding of polar processes, and how the Polar Regions interact with and influence the global ocean, atmosphere and land masses.