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Website of the Week — NASA Earth Observatory

Time again for our Website of the Week, the segment where we highlight interesting and useful online destinations.

This time it's a place to learn about Earth with information gathered from space.

HERRING: "NASA's Earth Observatory is a web-based magazine, written and designed and illustrated to help the public learn about the causes and effects of climate change and environmental change."

David Herring is a program manager at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, where Earth Observatory is produced. Now, you're probably thinking, NASA is the agency that launches astronauts into space and sends robotic probes to distant planets. But -

HERRING: "A vital part of NASA's mission is to understand and protect our home planet. And integral to that mission is to share the new knowledge that we gain with the public and to help them understand the way that our Earth's climate system works."

So at you can see the latest satellite data — for example, a map showing north Atlantic surface temperatures — or read about forest ecology and the people who study it.

HERRING: "And so what we try to do is to focus on the people who do science and tell their story and allow the reader to understand what motivated them, what were they trying to do, how did they go about gathering their data, what was their thought process, and so forth. So that as you're learning the information, as you're reading their story and you're relating to that person, you're also learning the science as you go."

One terrific interactive feature is in a section called "data and images," where you can choose from a menu of data, such as atmospheric ozone or kind of vegetation, plus a time period, and build a movie that visually shows changes over time.

HERRING: "And it quickly grabs the imagery and assembles a movie and ships that to you in a QuickTime format right there in your web browser. You could look at rainfall and plant growth patterns, cloud formations and radiant energy fluxes. We have about 20 different datasets now in the Data and Images section, and we've got more coming."

TEXT: David Herring says they're working on enhancing that feature to provide more detail in the pictures, plus daily and weekly data, not just monthly. All that and more at, or get the link from our site,