How Does Land Cover Affect Global Temperature?
ES1504  Global Temperature

If Earth's surface were perfectly uniform (all flat, bare land, for example), variations in climate wouldn't be very interesting. A location's latitude would control how much solar radiation it received, and all areas at the same latitude would warm up and cool down uniformly. This image shows simulated temperatures for an imaginary Earth with a uniform surface.

  !   Move your cursor over the image to reveal actual global temperatures. Consider how actual temperatures differ from the imaginary Earth temperatures. Answer the question below.

Data: NCEP/NCAR Reanalysis Project;
Image: Department of Geography, University of Oregon, March 2000

1. Describe how the temperature on Earth would vary if it had a uniform surface.

In reality, global temperature is affected by a number of variables. These include the amount of solar energy that reaches the surface, ocean and atmospheric circulation patterns, and the type of land cover on Earth's surface. In this investigation, land cover refers to rocks, sand, vegetation, ice, or water—anything that appears at the surface of the planet. You'll consider the effect of different types of land cover on global temperature.


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