Earth History! (Zazi Halla – Fall 2022, Biosphere & Lithosphere)


This website,, shows the progression of Earth all the way back to 750 million years ago during the Cryogenian Period. It is an interactive tool because you can view Earth looked like by changing the time frame (ex: select “what did Earth look like (x) years ago”. Most notably, this shows changes in the lithosphere because Pangea can be seen breaking apart due to tectonic plate movement. This website also connects directly to our lithosphere unit by illustrating places where isostatic rebound can be occurring. For example, students can change the time-scale and see how glaciers have been melting (a cause of isostatic rebound).

This website also connects to the biosphere unit, because there is an option to look at Earth based on what major species were present at the time. For example, you could look at when the first algae on Earth appeared or when the first land animals appeared. Students can try to infer how atmospheric changes influence biomes across Earth and subsequently provide habitable zones for different species over Earth’s history. Additional information is also provided on the diversity of species at the time. For example, when land animals appeared on Earth, it details that during this time “Insects diversify and fish develop sturdy fins, which eventually evolve into limbs”. Very cool stuff!!

NOAA Sea Level Rise Map

This interactive map created by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration serves as a highly useful tool in understanding where rising sea levels are occurring throughout the US and their effects. Using a vertical slider this website visualizes how sea levels ranging from 1 to 10 feet could affect coastal areas. It also includes information about the varying risk levels of counties along the coast in regards to flooding and possible damage. On a more local scale, the website allows users to select “local scenarios” to observe the projected sea levels for that specific area by year. In Richmond, our current intermediate level is approximately 0.5 feet, however according to the map, by 2100, this number is estimated to be 3.87 feet. Additionally, this map provides information about high tide flooding and the alteration of marsh areas over time

This information on this site can be used for both educational and preventative purposes. Data on what areas will suffer the most from rising sea levels and the approximate timeframe for when areas will become “high risk” can be used by both the local and national governments to create plans for mitigating these consequences. Not only will this provide a baseline for when and when actions must be taken, such as building floodwalls or elevating surrounding infrastructure, but I also helps people visualize this rapidly growing threat. Illustrating how many people and ecosystems are at risk due to rising water levels is an extremely effective way to get people to understand the severity of this situation, regardless of one’s education on climate change.



Earth:: a global map of wind, weather, and ocean conditions 

This website functions like google earth where you can spin the globe around, zoom in, and zoom out. However, instead of displaying satellite images, the earth’s surface displays patterns of wind, weather, and ocean movement. Using this site one can look at the live wind patterns such as jet streams and identify large ocean currents. Similarly, users can use the site to investigate trends in temperature seeing both the latitudinal and continental effects on temperature. Finally, this site can also be used to display concentrations of particulate matter and chemical pollutants. for example, users are able to see clear trends of higher CO2 levels in population centers.

Overall this site provides an easy to use interface to visualize and explore trends in abiotic factors including the atmospheric and hydrosphere conditions. This site could be particularly useful as a teaching tool. Teachers could ask their students to identify and screenshot areas of the world that exhibit the trends and patterns that are being taught, such as those related to the Coriolis effect, unequal warming, particulate matter, or ocean currents.

What’s Under Your Feet? Find Out With This Tool

The National Geologic Map Database (NGMDB) is managed by the US Geological Survey (USGS) and Association of American State Geologists (AASG). They recently released MapView beta, which combines over 25,000 regional, state, and local geologic maps into one data viewer. Although there are other interactive geologic maps, this one is among the most detailed. As the user zooms in and out, a number in the upper left corner displays how many maps are in view, with citations. This tool is probably best used at state scales. Geologic features cross state lines, but different states are symbolized with different color scales.

Knowing the local geology is important because it has informed patterns of human development and socioeconomics more than people realize. The placement of America’s largest cities is largely due to local geology. Geology affects resource availability and ease of access or development, both of which have tremendous effects on human history. Geology provides a more detailed view of the landscape than meets the eye. And rocks are just plain cool!

Climate Monitoring

The National Centers for Environmental Information, an office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), includes products by category surrounding the monitoring of the climate. The objective of the National Centers for Environmental Information is to develop products and services spanning all the science disciplines and allow for enhanced data discovery. Their website is “one of the largest archives of atmospheric, coastal, geophysical, and oceanic research in the world.” There is data for monthly climate reports, including reports on wildfires, droughts, tornadoes, snow, and ice, and overall information about the climate. You are able to specify what year, month, and type of report you would like to view. Once decided on what you would like to look at, there is a national overview that lays out significant climate anomalies and events for the specific month and year that was chosen. There will also be maps detailing the average temperatures and precipitation percentages. There is much more to this website besides the climate reports, however, I chose to just focus on one aspect. The main goal of these reports is to display monthly summaries of climate-related occurrences on the global and national scale.

The climate reports are extremely relevant to our class, as we have an entire chapter of our textbook dedicated to water, weather, and climate systems. We will spend a decent amount of time discussing the atmosphere, as well as the climate. Through these monthly climate reports we can compare months to examine how the climate/temperature has changed and come up with potential reasons as to why. Throughout week 2 we are going to focus on the atmosphere as well which has to do with the climate, weather, and other things occurring.

Below is an example map of the temperature, and significant climate anomalies and events for the month of July. 

Global Climate Information Visualizing Tool

NOAA View is a data exploration tool produced by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and developed by the NOAA Environmental Visualization Laboratory. This interactive map contains over 100 different datasets on a wide range of topics related to the Earth system: ocean, atmosphere, land, cryosphere, climate, and weather models. On the left, click at “Menu” and then “Add Data” to select the dataset to visualize. At the lower left corner, click at “Time” and drag the button to see how data change by time. Users can also click on areas of interest for more detailed information.

I found this an awesome website because of the enormous amount of data available to visualize. For example, under “climate”, we can choose to look to “observations” or “simulations”. I really like the “simulation” tool as we can simulate how ocean/air temperature, precipitation, or sea ice concentration change under low, moderate, high, or very high emissions.



This website is called the National Hurricane Center and Central Pacific Hurricane Center. This website works a bit like a news station. It’s purpose to is show what the oceans and the gulf looks like and if there is a hurricane or high winds going on in the water. The website lets you look 5 days into the future on what the weather looks like in the oceans. It predicts the wind speeds in the ocean and also the wave heights in the oceans. The site color codes the severity of the situation in the oceans. The brighter the color there is showing up, the greater the threat is. The website seems it would be most active from May 15 to November 30th because that’s when it says hurricane season is.

In class, we spent a lot of time going over hurricanes and weather patterns. This website gives great visuals of how hurricanes move in the ocean, and how we predict their movement. Although this website only shows the Atlantic and Pacific, it seems fair considering hurricanes don’t really hit anywhere else.

World’s Air Pollution: Real-time Air Quality Index

This figure depicts the Air Quality Data in the Western Hemisphere. The Air Quality index is based on the measurements of particulate matter, Ozone, Nitrogen Dioxide, Sulfur Dioxide, and Carbon Monoxide emissions. These points are set up to monitor the PM2.5 and PM10 levels and all measurements are based on an hourly reading for more than 10,00 stations.

There are many factors that contribute to bad air quality but the two most common factors are related to ground-level ozone and particulate matter. Particulate matter contains smoke, dust, dirt, soot, and salt in the atmosphere. Factors that contribute to particulate matter include vehicles, factories, fires, and human-activity that releases particles into the atmosphere. Although ground-level ozone is not directly emitted into the air, this ozone forms when nitrogen oxide emissions react with other volatile organic compounds when introduced to heat and sunlight. These released emissions include pollutants from industrial facilities and electric utilities, vehicle exhaust, and chemical solvents. Once the air quality reaches the unhealthy range, the AQI recommends that people with compromised health should stay indoors while Hazardous conditions state that everyone should avoid outside.


Global Seismic Activity

This website maps seismic activity globally over the past five years. The site is created by the Incorporated Research Institutions for Seismology (IRIS). On the website, there is an interactive map of the globe that maps earthquake activity over the past five years as rings. The larger the ring the greater the magnitude was of the earthquake that occurred in that designated region. The earthquakes are also organized by how long ago they occurred, and color-coded in this way. In addition to the interactive map, the site also has several embedded links that lead to pages that give more information regarding the earthquakes that are mapped. For example, some of the pages that are linked are earthquake headlines, last 30 days earthquakes, special quakes, and plate tectonics.

This website is particularly interesting because this map very well visualizes the phenomenon that the vast majority of earthquakes occur on the borders of the tectonic plates. We spent a large portion of our class talking about plate tectonics, faults, and earthquakes and how they are all directly related to each other. I feel like this website does a great job of summarizing and visualizing this concept in a central place.

American Rivers

American Rivers is a website all about educating and influencing policy to protect wild rivers, restore damaged rivers, and conserve clean water for people and nature. They provide updates in science as well as social updates related to their mission.  They include have a sustainable approach by approaching this with the triple bottom line. They discuss how rivers connect to environmental justice, how they are economic engines, and the new policy in Colorado that is a win for healthier rivers.

They go into a lot of depth on each one of their goals and the science behind what they do. For example, in their restoring damaged rivers section, they start by explaining key figures like how many dams have been removed since 1912 as well as a spatial analysis of this by providing a map.

Then they talk about all the different ways to restore rivers like restoring flood plains, replacing culverts, and river restoration resource centers.

They acknowledge a systems thinking approach by including information about energy development. Hydropower, mining, and fracking all contribute to river health. For all of their claims and steps forward, they provide external links and scientific research to support their information.