News & Events
Ship Wave Clouds Behind the Crozet Islands
Air flows like water in the atmosphere with invisible currents and waves. On April 9, 2014, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured this view that evokes fluid-like movement in the atmosphere. Ship wave clouds fan out behind the Crozet Islands over the southern Indian Ocean looking exactly like the ripples behind a rock in a stream or the waves behind a boat moving through calm water. Read more
Painting with Islands and Sunglint
The satellites in NASA’s Earth Observing System collect data and imagery for scientific research. The data goes to one of twelve Distributed Active Archive Centers (DAACs) across the United States, where it is processed and distributed to scientists who mine it for clues about our environment.
But sometimes the imagery is remarkable simply for its beauty. When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite looked down on the Lesser Antilles on August 1, 2013, the combination of sunlight, islands, and wind painted this scene on the surface of the Caribbean Sea. The right side of the image has a milky hue because of sunglint, an optical effect caused by the mirror-like reflection of sunlight off the water surface directly back at the satellite sensor. Read more
Drifting with Ice Island B31
In early November 2013, a large iceberg separated from the front of Antarctica’s Pine Island Glacier. It thus began a journey across Pine Island Bay, a basin of the Amundsen Sea. The ice island, named B31, will likely be swept up soon in the swift currents of the Southern Ocean, though it will be hard to track visually for the next six months as Antarctica heads into winter darkness.
Over the course of five months in Antarctic spring and summer, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS)—an instrument on NASA’s Terra and Aqua satellites—captured a series of images of ice island B31. Read more
Mapping Minerals with Light – ASTER
A satellite image is more than a photo. It is a picture of the amount and type of energy reflected or emitted by the Earth and recorded by a satellite instrument. There are many ways to combine those measurements to create an image, and each combination provides different insights.
The spectacular exposed geology of northwestern China offers an ideal landscape for illustrating how satellite measurements can identify minerals from afar. In satellite imagery, this area has three different sedimentary rock layers that are visible as rainbow stripes on a series of ridges. The Piqiang Fault has split the ridgeline, so the colored layers are offset by about three kilometers (two miles). All of the images on this page were made from data acquired on February 24, 2005, by the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Read more
Wildfire Burns Valparaiso, Chile
High winds propelled a wildfire through parts of Valparaiso, Chile, on April 13, 2014. It quickly became the largest fire in the history of this port city. The fire started in a forested area on April 12 and eventually reached wooden homes built on steep hills around the city. According to news reports, at least 12 people died, 2,000 homes were destroyed, and about 10,000 people evacuated as the fire moved through a section of the historic city.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of the fire at 11:10 am local time (14:10 UTC) on April 13. Fire detections are outlined in red in the forest south of the city, which is pale gray. A long plume of smoke stretches northwest over the Pacific Ocean, a clear indication that winds were strong and blowing the flames toward the city. Read more
Terra Image Wins Tournament: Earth
The second annual Tournament: Earth has come to an end, and the winner is a familiar face. In 2013, a submarine volcano off of the Canary Islands took the first championship. This year, the entire island chain got in on the action. ”Trailing the Canaries,” the #2 seed in the art bracket, romped through the tournament in 2014. The image showed interesting wind and wave patterns in sunglint on the lee side of the islands. The Canary Islands have a lot of fans! Read more
Near Miss in Madagascar
On Sunday, March 30, 2014, the outlook appeared grim for cities in northwestern Madagascar. Tropical cyclone Hellen spun offshore, gaining strength with surprising rapidity and with a track destined to bring it ashore. The day started with the storm being the equivalent of a Category 2 storm with winds of 170 kilometers per hour (100 miles per hour or 90 knots). Twelve hours later, winds reached 240 kilometers per hour (150 miles per hour or 130 knots), making it a strong Category 4 storm.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image of Cyclone Hellen at 7:20 UTC on March 30 in the middle of the storm’s rapid intensification. The storm had a distinct open eye and a classic tight circular shape. Its outer bands were already over northwestern Madagascar. Read more
Corridors for Carbon and Critters
“To create the corridors, Jantz started with a tropical carbon map that Goetz, Laporte, Alessandro Baccini, and other WHRC scientists developed a few years ago. That map included data from NASA’s ICESat, Terra, and Aqua satellites, Japan’s ALOS satellite, the Shuttle Radar Topography Mission, and from thousands of ground-based observations. The tropical carbon map became the base layer on the map above.” Read more
A Tale of Two Mountains
The winter of 2013–2014 was a study in contrasts between mountains in the far western United States and in the interior West. While people waited in vain for winter snow in California and the Pacific Northwest, snow piled onto the Rocky Mountains in Montana and Wyoming. The contrast is embodied in this image, acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite on March 12, 2014. Read more