Do's and Don'ts - The Climate and Land Cover Intensive Observing Period

A fun and easy way to be involved in the Student Climate Research Campaign (SCRC) is by participating in the Climate and Land Cover (CLC) Intensive Observing Period (IOP).  This quarterly IOP focuses on documenting and uploading land cover data into the GLOBE database.  Scientists are then able to use these data to validate land cover in climate models.  Knowing the right type of land cover is important to climate models, because it plays a role in both the energy and hydrologic cycles.  For example, land cover plays an important role in how much solar energy is absorbed or reflected from the surface of the Earth, and how much water evaporates into the atmosphere depending on land cover or vegetation type.

In June of 2011, I discussed the CLC in a bit more detail, and featured a video from Dr. Sandy MacDonald discussing the importance of student-collected data.  The April 2012 IOP has just begun, so I thought it would be a great time to discuss even more details about how to participate – a list of “do’s and don’ts”.

  1. Do find a representative land cover site.  A representative site is one that is not only a homogeneous area, but also one that represents the area where you live.  To choose a representative land cover site, Google Earth provides satellite imagery around the world.  Google Earth can be downloaded here.
  2. Don’t choose a site just because it’s attractive or convenient.  Whether you live in an urban area or a rural agricultural area, it’s as important to capture both land cover types.  Don’t choose a city park because you think it would make nice pictures.
  3. Do have all of your materials ready when you head out to a site.  This includes a GPS device, compass, camera, MUC Field Guide, and signs for the cardinal directions, as well as a notebook and pencil to take notes.
    Materials needed for the CLC
    Materials needed for the CLC
  4. Don’t take pictures before using your compass to check the cardinal direction.
  5. Do take a picture in each of the four cardinal directions adding a small sign in a bottom corner showing the direction.
    Student Scientist Emily showing how to take a land cover photograph
    Student Scientist Emily showing how to take a land cover photograph
  6. Don’t let the cardinal direction sign obscure too much of the view of the landscape in your photo.
    An example of a proper land cover photo
    An example of a proper land cover photo
  7. Don’t submit photos to the GLOBE database with students in the pictures. While it’s fun to take photos of classmates participating, it will not help our scientists. However, if you’d like to submit a photo of your class participating, please email them to We are always looking for images of students collecting data*!
  8. Do double check your data entry to make sure you’ve entered the correct date on which your photos were taken (and not the date you’re entering them into the GLOBE database).
  9. Do have your students discuss together the type of land cover at their site. Not only does this ensure the correct MUC classification, it encourages students to discuss the project!
    Student Scientist Emily and GPO Staff Member Gary discussing the MUC classification for their land cover site
    Student Scientist Emily and GPO Staff Member Gary discussing the MUC classification for their land cover site
  10. Don't hesitate to contact the GLOBE CLC team ( if you have any questions or need help finding a good site or uploading your data.
  11. Do check out land cover photos submitted by other schools. This is a great way to explore climate in other locations in your own country and across the world!
  12. Do have fun! The CLC is a great and easy way to get students outside exploring the world around them!

It is important to note that only GLOBE schools can enter Land Cover data. If you're not a trained GLOBE school and you’d like to be involved in this IOP, please email and we will put you in touch with a nearby partner. If participation in April is difficult, the IOP will repeat in July! If you’ve been participating in past IOPs, we thank you! We’d love to hear about any changes you’ve seen in your land cover site! Please leave us a comment or email us at!

*If you do submit a photo of your students participating in the CLC, we will follow-up with you in order to obtain a photo release form.

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