Land cover describes what you see on the surface of the land such as trees, grass, pavement, or bare rocks or soil. Even though land cover is familiar to everyone on the planet, the most detailed maps of global land cover are still on the order of hundreds of meters [about 330 feet] per pixel. That means that a park in a city may be too small to show up on the global map.
Scientists need detailed and regularly updated land cover maps because land cover is critical to many different processes on Earth and contributes to a community’s vulnerability to disasters like fire, floods or landslides.
Land cover changes with climate change or land use decisions. Changes in land cover matter because land cover can alter temperatures and rainfall patterns. Land cover influences the way water flows or is absorbed, potentially leading to floods or landslides. Some types of land cover absorb carbon from the atmosphere, and when subject to changes, such as a forest burned in a wildfire, result in more carbon entering the atmosphere. Improved land cover maps will provide a better baseline to study all of these factors at both global and local scales, particularly as scientists integrate improved land cover maps into global models.
Land Cover: Adopt a Pixel enables you to photograph the landscape, identify the kinds of land cover you see (trees, grass, etc.), and then match your observations to satellite data. You can also share your knowledge of the land and how it has changed.
Scientists can use your observations of land cover to improve global land cover maps. Global maps at high resolution are important for consistency. Some parts of the world do have high spatial resolution maps of land cover, but these maps do not exist for every place, and the maps are not always comparable. GLOBE Observer Land Cover can fill in local gaps and contribute to consistent global maps.
New and interested users are encouraged to go to SciStarter.org/NASA-GLOBE to learn more and receive step-by-step instructions. You can visit https://observer.globe.gov to learn more about GLOBE Observer and the Land Cover tool. For educators, the main GLOBE Program can be found at http://www.globe.gov.