What is Surface Temperature & Why Study It?

 

A graph showing temperature levels across various types of living locations.

The temperature at the surface of the Earth is the actual boundary between the atmosphere and the ground.  This measurement is not normally recorded by official weather agencies.  

We specifically want to know how different land cover types such as concrete, asphalt, grass and bare soil affect the temperature of Earth’s surface.

When new buildings, roads and parking lots are built, our landscape is altered, and these changes can potentially warm up the planet.  This phenomenon is called the “urban heat island effect.”

The Energy Cycle

The way that energy from the sun is partitioned into evapotranspiration and heating of Earth’s surface.  All aspects of the energy cycle contribute to or are affected by surface temperature.

A chart showing how the sun's energy is absorbed by the Earth.

Learn more from the Urban Heat Islands Story Map:

In this new  My NASA Data cloud-based lesson, Creation of Urban Heat Islands Story Map, students engage with interactive NASA data, maps, and multimedia content related to the Urban Heat Island Effect, along with tasks that can be seamlessly incorporated into classroom instruction. Throughout the story map, grade 6-12 students investigate the processes that form differences in surface temperature, and evaluate how human activity has led to the formation of Urban Heat Islands. By featuring the GLOBE Program’s Visualization System, students will view and analyze surface temperature data collected by students like themselves, incorporating it into their explanations of how surface cover types affect surface temperature.

Lesson Plan Link

Direct Link to Story Map

Here's a video tutorial that teaches users how to navigate the story map:

Creation of Urban Heat Islands Story Map Tutorial

NASA Animation of GLOBAL Surface Temperature 2000-2019

How has global land surface temperature changed over time? Check out the animation below!

Click on the animation above to go to: https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/global-maps/MOD_LSTD_M