Norfork Elementary School

Microclimate Study

How does the sun affect our soil?


Problem Statement (Phase 5). . . . Have you ever wondered about any of these questions:

What is the effect of the sun on soil temperatures?

Does the solar radiation affect all the ground the same?

Is there a difference in soil temperature between north and south facing slopes? If so, does it depend upon the season?


These are the type of questions that some fourth grade students are asking after our study of the seasons in their fourth grade science textbook. Pending the availability of funding, our students will establish two air / soil temperature dataloggers on two sites that are at the same elevation but facing different directions. The proposed site is about five miles away from the school and is illustrated below.

Proposed Seasonal Solar Radiation Study Site

Figure 1. Site map from an extract of USGS Norfork Quadrangle, Scale is as noted in the kilometer bar copied from base map.
Fractional Section 24, Township 18 North, Range 13 West, 5th Principal Meredian, Left Bank White River

The proposed site is in a cleared saddle used as a summer pasture for cattle. It is surrounded by mixed deciduous and pine forests. The proposed sites lie about 250 meters apart. They are about 40 meters below the hill tops and 30 meters above the river valley, thus are somewhat isolated from the effects of a north wind and any river influence. Elevation of each sensor will be kept the same by using a laser level to position the instruments. Vegetation will be maintained the same height, <15 cm bermuda grass, throughout the growing season by establishing a three meter ring of sod surrounding the sensors locations.

Sixth grade students will be conducting soil classifications of both site locations to determine the differences in each, if any. Similarly, they will make soil moisture measurements on a monthly basis throughout the study period.

All data collected will be reported to the GLOBE Program dataset for later evaluation using GLOBE visualizations.