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You Are Here: New Children's Exhibit in Blacksburg Examines Landscape and Temperature

A new exhibit at the Blacksburg Children’s Museum features satellite imagery of the area and a real time weather station to show how geography and climate are related.  

The terrain in and around Blacksburg is breathtaking with its mountain ridges, forests and waterways. 

And, the view from hundreds of miles up is a great way to appreciate it. 

A team of professors and grad students at Virginia Tech created a wall-sized map from satellite photos by theUS Geological Survey. Professor Jim Campbell says the color-coded, image enhanced picture is a great way for kids to get an understanding of the world around them and where they are in it.

“And especially when their parents say ‘this is where I lived, right here when I was your age or this is where grandma lives.’”

The map shows not only the local terrain, but also the temperatures in every location at the moment this photo was taken by Landsat, a network of satellites that have been capturing images of earth from space since the early 1970s. 

Tammy Parece, a doctoral candidate in Tech’s geospatial and environmental analysis program, says the real time weather station on the wall next to the map helps demonstrate how weather, geography and built spaces interact.

“So they can see what the differences are and why, with our weather station here, it may be only 26 and a half degrees but over at the airport it may be 30 degrees, or on Tech’s campus it may be a little bit warmer. And connecting is to the imagery that we have, the aerial imagery, they can say so why is The Children’s Museum only 26 but over at the airport it’s 30? So what is the difference in the landscape that creates that difference? Well, the answer is there’s more grassy areas around. We are out here actually in the middle of a parking lot. During the winter time it’s a little bit cool, but in the summer time it’s going to be a lot hotter here with all the buildings nearby so we’re going to show a higher temperature here during the summer time because all the man-made surfaces just heat up and collect all that heat over the course of a day.”

The weather station feeds data to the online weather site Weather Underground where anyone can check in from anywhere. 

It was supported by a donation from a local engineering firm Draper Aden Associates and the 10 by 15 foot map by Virginia View, a statewide organization that focuses on educational uses this kind of geospatial technology.

The museum and Virginia View will offer scholarships to schools to pay for travel to Blacksburg to see the exhibit. 

Robbie Harris is based in Blacksburg, covering the New River Valley and southwestern Virginia.
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