History of GLOBE Protocols

With relation to GLOBE Campaigns and Projects

Written By: Grace M. Crain-Wright and Denise “Skye” Yost

Contributions By: Lyn Wigbels, Tony Murphy

GLOBE Protocols have been part of the NASA GLOBE Program since its inception in 1995. The first 11 protocols included air temperature, tree height, water temperature, and soil characterization. These first protocols, and all protocols implemented thereafter, represent the four Earth spheres: Atmosphere, Biosphere, Hydrosphere, and Pedosphere. The protocols within the four Earth spheres help support and promote environmental education, awareness, and literacy for GLOBE students, teachers, and the entire worldwide GLOBE community. Over the years, NASA and GIO, with the help from the GLOBE community, have created and implemented over 45 unique scientific protocols. These protocols include connections to several learning activities and programs, such as GLOBE Measurement Campaigns, Data Challenges from GIO and GLOBE Observer, and Intensive Observation Periods (IOPs). 

Below is a timeline of the GLOBE Protocols that have been implemented over the past 27 years of the NASA GLOBE Program! In some cases, we have included connections to other GLOBE program launches and initiatives. Please let us know if we missed anything, or you, the GLOBE community, would like to add anything to the timeline! Enjoy!

GLOBE Protocols Timeline

  • First GLOBE protocols (11 total) were implemented on Earth Day 1995 within each sphere:
    • Atmosphere: Air temperature, clouds, precipitation (maybe relative humidity)
    • Hydrosphere: Water temperature, pH (maybe transparency)
    • Pedosphere: Soil moisture, gravimetric soil moisture, soil characterization
    • Biosphere: tree height, land cover characterization, biometry
  • 1995: From a signed GLOBE Agreement
    • Atmosphere: Air temperature, precipitation, clouds
    • Hydrosphere: water pH, water temperature
    • Biosphere: Tree height, tree canopy, tree diameter, species identification, phenology, habitat study
  • 1996: From a signed GLOBE Agreement
    • Atmosphere: Air temperature, precipitation, clouds
    • Hydrosphere: water pH, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, alkalinity, electrical conductivity
    • Biosphere: Land cover, biometry
    • Pedosphere: soil characterization, soil moisture
  • 1995 -1998: El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Campaign
    • Atmosphere: Precipitation and air temperature
  • 1997: GLOBE Teacher Guides 
    • Atmosphere: Clouds, precipitation, rainfall pH, air temperature
    • Biosphere: Land cover, MUC system 
    • Hydrosphere: Water transparency, water temperature, pH, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity
    • Pedosphere: soil characterization
  • 2005: GLOBE Teacher Guides 
    • Atmosphere: Clouds, aerosols, water vapor, relative humidity, precipitation, air temperature, surface temperature, ozone, barometric pressure
    • Pedosphere: soil temperature, pH, soil characterization
    • Biosphere: Land cover, biometry
    • Hydrosphere: Water transparency, water temperature, dissolved oxygen, electrical conductivity, salinity, pH, alkalinity, nitrates, freshwater macroinvertebrates
  • 2007-2009: International Polar Year
  • 2011: Concept of Student Research Campaigns (SRCs) launched
  • 2011-2013: Student Climate Research Campaign (SCRC)
    • Great Global Investigation of Climate (GGIC)
      • Atmosphere: Precipitation and air temperature
    • Climate and Land Cover
      • Biosphere: Land cover
    • Phenology
      • Biosphere: green-up, green-down, budburst
    • Surface Temperature
      • Atmosphere: Surface temperature
  • 2015: GLOBE History - 51 Protocols offered
  • 2016: Special Eclipse feature on GO for the Eclipse Campaign in LAC
  • 2016: The GLOBE Program’s App, GLOBE Observer Launches
    • Atmosphere: Clouds
  • 2017: Mosquito Protocol
  • 2017: Frost Tube Protocol Introduced
  • 2017: eTraining Protocols
    • Atmosphere: Clouds, Precipitation, aerosols, air temperature, precipitation (snow), relative humidity, barometric pressure, surface temperature
    • Biosphere: Land cover classification, biometry (canopy cover and ground cover), biometry (tree circumference), biometry (graminoid biomass), biometry (graminoid, tree, and shrub height), grass green-up, tree and shrub green-up, grass green-down, tree and shrub green-down, carbon cycle intro, standard site carbon cycle, non-standard site carbon cycle, carbon cycle modeling
    • Hydrosphere: Mosquito larvae, water temperature, water transparency, electrical conductivity, water pH, alkalinity, dissolved oxygen, salinity, nitrates
    • Pedosphere: Soil temperature, SMAP soil moisture, gravimetric soil moisture, soil characterization, selecting/exposing/defining soil characterization, soil bulk density, soil infiltration, frost tube
  • 2017-2018: ENSO Phase II/III
    • Atmosphere: precipitation, relative humidity, clouds, surface temperature
    • Pedosphere: SMAP soil moisture, soil temperature
    • Hydrosphere: nitrates, pH, dissolved oxygen, freshwater macroinvertebrates, mosquito larvae
  • 2018: Carbon Cycle Protocol Introduced
  • 2018: Mosquito and Land Cover Protocols added to GLOBE Observer
  • 2018: Trees Around the World Student Research Campaign – Trees Protocol added to GLOBE Observer 
    • Biosphere: Biometry/Tree Height

Current Protocols as of 2022

  • Protocols Listed on GLOBE Website under Teacher Guides:
    • Atmosphere: Aerosols, air temperature, barometric pressure, clouds, precipitation, relative humidity, surface ozone, surface temperature, water vapor, wind
    • Biosphere: Arctic bird migration, biometry and tree height, carbon cycle, fire fuel, green-up/green-down, land cover classification, lilac phenology, phenological gardens, ruby-throated hummingbirds, seaweed reproductive phenology
    • Hydrosphere: Alkalinity, conductivity, dissolved oxygen, freshwater macroinvertebrates, mosquitos, nitrates, salinity and titration, water temperature, water transparency, pH
    • Pedosphere: Bulk density, frost tube, soil characterization, soil fertility, soil infiltration, gravimetric soil moisture, SMAP soil moisture, sensor soil moisture, soil particle density, soil particle size distribution, soil temperature, soil pH
  • Protocols on The GLOBE Program’s app, GLOBE Observer:
    • Atmosphere: Clouds
    • Biosphere: Land Cover, Trees
    • Hydrosphere: Mosquitoes

As the first of many, the GIO staff hope to produce science-focused blogs that inform the GLOBE community on science-related projects, updates, and curiosities. We hope you all find these fun and informative! 

Have a suggestion on what we should write next, feel free to reach out to the GLOBE Science Team at

More Blog Entries

What a great timeline!

I thought the Special Eclipse feature debuted for the 2017 North American Eclipse?  Have I forgotten a step?