Satellite Imagery
activity exercisesuggested grade levels: 7-12

view Idaho achievement standards for this lesson

Satellite images are often processed to give the appearance of color-infrared film. In this type of film green vegetation reflects red, so forests and agricultural areas appear red. It is a dramatic way to see quickly where the majority of a population is, or to compare two different areas to see which has more vegetation (such as forest vs. desert). The activities below demonstrate some ways to interpret satellite image data.

1. Using the satellite image of southeastern Idaho and a piece of tracing paper, trace or draw as many of the major features as you can. Specifically identify and label the following features (some are already labeled to give you a frame of reference):

click to see larger viewAmerican Falls Reservoir
Bannock Range
Big Lost River Valley
Big Southern Butte
Burley area
Craters of the Moon
Hell's Half Acre
Idaho Falls area
Lake Walcott
Lost River Range
Pocatello/Chubbuck area
Portneuf River
Snake River

2. Compare the various lava flows on the plain. There are approximately four large ones: Craters of the Moon, Hell's Half Acre, Cerro Grande and Wapi. Can you see a difference in their color? Why is there a difference or what would cause the difference?
3. Where does the majority of the vegetation (red) appear in the image? What is the main cause for this distribution?
4. Compare the mountain ranges to the north of the Snake River Plain to the mountain ranges to the south. What is apparently different about them as far as vegetation is concerned? If there is a difference between the north and south ranges, give a possible reason why.
5. Why is there so little out on the Snake River Plain?
6. Where do the farms that are located further out on the Snake River Plain get the water that they need to grow crops?
7. At the northeast end of the American Falls Reservoir there is a patch of white. What is it? Based on your interpretation of the white patch and distribution of vegetation, during which season of the year do you think that this image was created?

Handouts/Activity links:
These are links to access the handouts and printable materials.
satellite image

Related Lesson Topics:
Extra Topics: Extra Topics

Lesson Plan provided by Vita Taube, 2000
Idaho Achievement Standards (as of 7/2001) met by completing this activity: