Bildergalerie

Centre-Pivot Irrigation in Kansas

Approximately 80 per cent of the global water consumption can be ascribed to irrigation farming. In this false-colour image from above Kansas, red stands for healthy vegetation while farmland sticks out due to its conventional and circular irrigation. The so-called centre-pivot irrigation is common in dry areas with a large land-use management. Its characteristic shape is clearly visible from space.

 

Location: Kansas, USA
Picture taken on September 26, 2010
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: Vis/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Gletscher in der Antarktis

The Matusevich Glacier in the Antarctic streams towards the east coast while pushing its way through a valley in the mountains. Its ice tongue has been constrained so far but once it reaches the end of the mountains, the ice spreads out and calves into the ocean. Afterwards, the undulations of the sea break the ice into small pieces that begin to flow into the open sea as icebergs.

 

Location: Antarctic

Picture taken on September 6, 2010

Sensor: EO-1 – ALI

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Susitna Glacier in Alaska

In this false colour image, the Susitna Glacier in Alaska seems like a river fed by its influent streams and flowing towards the valley. Due to the depiction in false colour, the vegetation in this picture is bright red, the pure surface of the ice is light blue and white, ice covered with sediment (medial and lateral moraines) is brown and water is dark blue. The dynamics of the glacier are most striking in the middle of the picture where you can see a tributary glacier pushing its ice masses sideways into the trunk glacier.

 

Location: Alaska

Picture taken on August 27, 2009

Sensor: Terra ASTER

Band combination: G/ R/ IR

 

 

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon)
Glacier in Patagonia

Patagonia is a mountainous region at the border between Chile and Argentina. You can see that the glacier (white) streaming from the mountains towards the foothills is interspersed with crevasses. The semicircular crest far left in the picture is pierced by three glacial rivers. The crest consists of coarse gravel, forming the terminal moraine for a long time, deposited by the ice tongue. Thus, the moraine marks the end of the glacier in former times and indicates a retreat of ice. In this false colour image, the vegetation is depicted in red.

 

Location: Patagonia, Latin America

Picture taken on May 2, 2000

Sensor: Terra ASTER

Band combination: VIS/NIR

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
Flood in Siberia

In spring, Siberia’s rivers are flooded as the ice in the southern upper reaches melts before the estuary in the north is ice-free. In this image, you can see the flooded rivers Pur (left), Taz (middle) and Yenisey (right). In the false-colour image, red signals ice and snow, white stands for clouds, black indicates water, green signals vegetation and brown indicates bare ground.

 

Location: Russia, Siberia

Picture taken on June 18, 2002

Sensor: Terra MODIS

Band combination: NIR/ MIR

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Mertz Glacier and Icebergs

With its ice tongue pointing towards Australia and New Zealand, the Mertz Glacier in East Antarctica extends into the Southern Ocean. A glacier can “calve”, which means that pieces of ice break off and start to float in the open sea as icebergs. Often comprising an area of several square kilometres, sea currents make these giants cross the Antarctic for months or even years. However, as soon as they reach northern and warmer areas, they begin to melt.

 

Location: Mertz Glacier, East Antarctica
Picture taken on January 1, 2010
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Floods in Bangladesh

Bangladesh ranks among the most populous states worldwide. Located in the estuary area of Brahmaputra, Meghna and Ganges, the land surface of Bangladesh is just above the sea level. As a result of global change, the population will have to face more and more risks from different directions:  Strongly increasing extreme runoffs might cause floods coming from the north, and due to the current sea level rise, water from the south is getting closer and closer. This satellite image shows the 2004 flooding of Bangladesh – an all too realistic scenario.

 

Location: Bangladesh, Asia
Picture taken on October 20, 2004
Sensor: Terra MODIS

 

 

NASA/GSFC; LInk: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Rainfall in Australia

After a drought of several years, the recurrent rain returned to the region surrounding Queensland and New South Wales in 2004. Even though heavy precipitation caused large-scale flooding, infrastructural damage and the isolation of cities, the Australians were quite pleased with the situation. In this false-colour image, the turquoise-blue colour indicates the mass of water.

 

Location: Northeast Australia
Picture taken on January 18, 2004
Band combination: VIS/NIR/SWIR

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/
Floods in Australia

Heavy rainfall in Queensland, Australia, caused the flooding of Fitzroy River in January 2011. Large parts of the city of Rockhampton were flooded as well. This false-colour image highlights the contrast between the brown water of the river, which is rich in sediment, and its surroundings. The light-reflecting surfaces of the buildings and of the clouds framing this scene are pearly-white. When the floods started to retreat at the end of January 2011, it left a mixture of mud, water and destroyed infrastructure behind.

 

Location: Rockhampton, Australia
Picture taken on January 7, 2011
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: VIS/NIR

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Landslides in Brazil

These images show the hills in the north of Teresópolis, Brazil, on May 24, 2010 and on February 2, 2011. In January 2011, a series of devastating landslides occurred, claiming the lives of 860 people. In the image on the right-hand side, the light brown stripes indicate the mudslides. This natural disaster was caused by the construction of favelas in steep terrain: In order to build the settlements, many trees were cut down whose roots had been ensuring the stability of the ground. What is more, the ground could not absorb enough water to prevent the heavy rainfall from resulting in mudslides.

 

Location: Teresópolis, Brazil
Pictures taken on May 24, 2010 and February 2, 2011
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

 

 

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
The Growing City of Las Vegas

In comparing these two images, you get an idea of the rapid growth of Las Vegas, Nevada, between 1973 and 2002. Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing US cities. Its high immigration rate and its areal extent have a negative effect on the water budget of this arid region. In order to solve this problem, politicians intervened: It is now forbidden to build new swimming pools, fountains must be operated using wastewater and the lawn can only be watered at certain days of the week.

 

Location: Las Vegas, USA
Pictures taken on June 10, 1973 and June 10, 2002
Sensors: Landsat 5 and Landsat 7

 

 

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument, Utah

The geological history of the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument in Utah, USA, goes back more than 275 million years. This image shows a central part of the basin. The dendritic relief reveals a myriad of canyons. The erosions was caused by rivers millions of years ago. In the past, precipitation in this region was considerably heavier than it is today. Due to tectonic uplift, the area has dried out more and more.

 

Location: Utah, USA

Picture taken on May 15, 2005

Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Egmont National Park

The volcano Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island is currently dormant. Mount Taranaki is located in an area with heavy precipitation and a mild maritime climate. In this image, the peak of the almost perfectly symmetrical stratovulcano is covered with snow. Due to the radial limitation of the nature reserve surrounding the volcanic crater, the land-cover pattern is striking. The extensive rain forest in the surroundings of the volcano contrasts with the neighbouring farmland.

 

Location: New Zealand’s North Island
Picture taken on May 27, 2001
Sensor: Terra ASTER

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Land Reclamation at Yellow River

The Huang He (or Yellow River) in China is the river with the highest amount of sediment worldwide. Over time, fortified settlements and industrial facilities have been built on sediment that had been deposited in the river delta. In the middle of the nineteenth century, dams and levees were set up in order to protect the new infrastructure against floods. Since the 1970s, the river levels in the delta have been falling continually due to the increased demand for water. These two satellite images give you an idea of the modifications the delta underwent within twenty years.

 

Location: China
Pictures taken on July 2, 1979 and October 23, 1999
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: G/R/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Artificial Islands in Dubai

Dubai is famous for its large-scale urban development projects and its architectural buildings. The artificial archipelagos “Palm Jumeirah”, “Palm Jebel Ali” and “The World” are striking. In order to “lift” the islands belonging to Palm Jumeirah (bottom left corner of the picture) above sea level, more than 50 million cubic metres of sand were dredged. The construction of the 300 islands forming “The World”, which can be seen in the top right corner of the picture, required approximately 320 million cubic metres of sand and took about six years. In addition, roughly 37 million tons of rock were needed in order to create 27 kilometres of breakwaters surrounding “The World”.

 

Location: Dubai, United Arab Emirates
Picture taken on January 13, 2010
Sensor: ISS digital camera
Band combination: R/G/B

 

 

NASA/JSC; ISS Crew Earth Observations; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Lignite Surface Mines in Germany

This image shows an area in North Rhine-Westphalia spanning 30x36 km. The numerous rectangular areas depict agricultural plains. Bright shades of green signal plant growth, dark shades of green stand for forests and shades of grey indicate bare ground. Settlements are characterised by the accumulation of blue and grey pixels connected by thin lines (streets). The three large areas standing out due to their bright white and dark blue colour are the three big lignite surface mines in Garzweiler, Hambach and Inden.

 

Location: North Rhine-Westphalia, Germany
Picture taken on August 28, 2000
Sensor: Terra ASTER

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
Flooding of Zambezi River

The Zambezi is the fourth-longest river in Africa. Along its way, it turns into the 110m deep waterfall Victoria Falls, flows through canyons and spreads out across wide wetlands. In this picture, you can see Zambezi River (at the top) and Chobe River (at the bottom) during the annually recurring floods. The green part of the picture indicates tidewater while the brown and yellow part signals relative aridity. These two landscape areas deviate from each other due to the Mambova fault: The dry area is located higher than the flooded area in the valley.

 

Location: Kasane, Namibia
Picture taken on May 8, 2010
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI
Band combination: R/ G/ B

NASA/Earth Observatory (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/
Precision Farming in Minnesota

This false colour image shows farms alongside the Buffalo River in the US state Minnesota. Among other things, the term “precision farming” refers to the monitoring of plant health with the help of satellite images. Due to the depiction in the infrared spectrum, the farmers are provided with a lot of information about their fields.
Yellow areas indicate cultures that have been attacked by vermin, shades of red stand for healthy vegetation and black signals that there is too much water in the ground. What is more, weeds and hail damage can be detected by means of remote sensing as well.

 

Location: Minnesota, USA

Picture taken on September 10, 2009

Sensor: Landsat 5 – TM

Band combination: G/ R/ NIR

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen); USGS; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Artificial Islands in Qatar

This digital camera image was taken at the international space station ISS and shows Doha, the capital city of the state of Qatar in the Persian Gulf. Ring roads surrounding the centre give an idea of the gradual extension of the city starting from the historical city centre.
Off the coast of West Bay Lagoon, you can see the newly built artificial island Pearl-Qatar. Primarily planned as a residential district, the buildings are thematically reminiscent of Arabic, Mediterranean and European cultural elements. The name Pearl-Qatar recalls the function of the place as a major pearl diving site.

 

Location: Doha, Qatar
Picture taken on October 5, 2010
Sensor: ISS digital camera

NASA/JSC; ISS Crew Earth Observations; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Penguin Traces

The Antarctica emperor penguins are endangered. Due to the global temperature increase, the ice in the south will melt quickly and the birds will lose their natural habitat. Scientists use satellite images in order to investigate the number of penguins in the Antarctic. Since the penguins are hard to detect due to their black and white feathering, scientists look for their excrements. In the middle of the picture, you can see brown lines that cannot originate from the ice and thus must be organic: This so-called seabird guano clearly indicates the presence of a penguin colony.

 

Location: Antarctic
Picture taken on December 4, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+ 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Irrigation Farming in Iran

The city of Gandoman is located south of Isfahan in the arid area of mountainous Iran. At the foot of the mountain, there is a lot of irrigation farming alongside a river in the flat plains. Green areas are covered with vegetation, and shades of earthly brown indicate uncultivated land. The dark brown triangle in the middle of the picture signals wetland. The fan-shaped structure of the cultivated land spreading out at the bottom of the steep hills on fertile alluvial fans clearly sticks out

 

Location: Gandoman, Iran
Picture taken on September 30, 2010
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI.

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Volcanic Ash of  des Eyjafjallajökull, Iceland

Iceland is located in the geologically active zone where the outer mantle of the Earth is drifting apart (diverging lithosphere), and is placed on the Mid-Atlantic Ridge. Here, many active vulcanoes are covered with snow due to the cold climate. In 2010, the eruption of the glaciated vulcano Eyjafjallajökull caused an enormous ash cloud moving south which can be seen in the picture. This cloud brought all air traffic in Europe to a standstill for several days and caused high economic loss.

 

Location: Iceland

Picture taken on May 11, 2010

Sensor: MODIS Terra

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
San Francisco, USA

These four images show the region surrounding San Francisco Bay, USA, with different band combinations.
Top left in the picture, the band combination of visible and reflected infrared light results in a red depiction of vegetation and a grey depiction of urban areas. Light blue indicates sediment in the bays. Top right in the picture, the band combination of short-wave infrared highlights the different soils and rocks of the mountainous region. Bottom left in the picture, multispectral thermal bands emphasise the differences of the urban surfaces through different colouring. Bottom right in the picture, you can see how different thermal bands can visualise water temperature: Warm water is depicted in white, yellow and red; colder water is depicted in blue. In the right upper corner, you can see Suisun Bay directly feeding on the cold Sacramento River. If the water flows through San Pablo and San Francisco Bay while making its way towards the Pacific Ocean, it heats up.

 

Location: USA, San Francisco
Picture taken on March 3, 2000
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: diverse, see above 

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
Richat Structure, Mauretania

Since the first space missions, the circular “Richat Structure” in the northwest of Africa has ranked among the most striking points of orientation for astronauts. The “Eye of the Sahara” is 45 km in diameter and was initially interpreted as the result of a meteorite impact. Meanwhile, it is assumed to be a circular uplift of several layers of earth. Rocks of different solidness had been eroding to a greater or lesser extent over time, which led to the distinct looks of the “Richat Structure” as we know it today. However, the reason for the almost circular shape has remained unclear to this day.

 

Location: Mauretania, North Africa
Picture taken on March 31, 2003
Sensor: Landsat ETM+ 

 

 

USGS; Link: http://www.usgs.gov
The Alps in Winter

In this image you can see the Alpine region below a wintry blanket of snow. The Alps are the highest European mountain range system spanning more than 1,200 km from east to west and reaching a maximum height of 4,810 m above sea level (Mont Blanc, France). The mountains developed during the Alpine orogeny, the most recent and youngest mountain formation in the history of the earth (approximately 100 million to 5 million years ago). The Alps as we know them today developed during the last ice ages in the Pleistocene period when massive glaciers covered big parts of the mountains and their foothills.

 

Location: Europe, the Alps
Picture taken on January 17, 2011
Sensor: MODIS Terra
Band composition: R/G/B

NASA/GSFC, Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Hudson Bay, Canada

This image shows the two twin islands in the southern part of Hudson Bay (North and South Twin Island). In spring, the ice of Hudson Bay clears, usually leaving the south-western part, in which the two islands are located, as the last area with a closed ice sheet. Climatologists are worried about Arctic melting processes: In recent years, there have been more and more ice-free phases, signalling an increase in climate warming.

 

Location: Hudson Bay, Canada
Picture taken on February 20, 2002
Sensor: Landsat ETM+
Band combination: MIR/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Al-Basrah

North of the Iraqi city of Al-Basrah bordering on Iran, a former swamp has been drained. Today, this area is used for military training.

 

Location: Iraq, Al-Basrah
Picture taken on January 24, 2001
Sensor: Landsat ETM+
Band combination: IR/ G/ B

USGS/EROS; Link: http://eros.usgs.gov/
Hurricane Igor

Hurricane Igor, one of the strongest hurricanes in 2010, developed in September above the Cape Verde Islands. Tropical cyclones with this basis are westbound across the Atlantic Ocean and can be particularly strong as they absorb a lot of warm water on their long way across the ocean, thus causing a positive feedback (self-reinforcement). With a maximum wind velocity of 250 km/h, Igor reached category 4 status, indicating the possibility of devastating destructions. Unfortunately, this was the case on September 20 and 21, 2010 when Igor hit Newfoundland.

 

Location: Atlantic Ocean
Picture taken on September 13, 2010
Sensor: Aqua MODIS

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Glacier in Alaska

In the middle of this false-colour image, you can see the tongue of the Malaspina glacier. The glacier makes its way from the mountains in the north and is separated from the sea by its terminal moraine as can be seen in the lower part of the picture. Without the moraine or in the case of a sea-level rise, the glacier would come in contact with the warmer sea water and it would retreat more quickly than it does now. Satellite images and measurements on the ground show that most glaciers in Alaska are getting thinner and that only a few dozen are gaining in ice mass.

 

Location: Alaska
Picture taken on April 27, 2003
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: B/ G/ NIR

USGS; Link: http://www.usgs.gov
Zagros Mountains, Iran

This image shows a part of the Zagros Mountains stretching across 1500 km from West to Southwest Iran where the Eurasian Plate and the Arabian Plate meet. This mountain range developed during the Alpine orogeny, the most recent and youngest mountain formation in the history of the earth. To this day, the Zagros Mountains have been growing continually.

 

Location: Iran
Picture taken on February 2, 2000
Sensor: Landsat 5, Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: G/SWIR/IR

USGS/EROS ; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
Mount Vesuvius

This image shows Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the European mainland. Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and buried its surrounding areas under a blanket of ashes that was approximately 30m thick. The excavation finds from the city of Pompeii constitute a snapshot of Roman life 2000 years ago: Perfectly intact wooden items, groceries and traces of hundreds of victims of the catastrophe. Mount Vesuvius has never rested and is constantly monitored for potential signs of a new eruption. This impressive image gives an idea of what an impact an eruption of Mount Vesuvius would have on the city of Naples.

 

Location: Italy, Pompeii
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Picture taken on September 26, 2000
Band combination: Vis/ NIR

NASA/GSFC/METI/Japan Space Systems; U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team; Link: http://asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov
Calving Glacier in Greenland

In this image you can see a glacier (blue) in Greenland calving into the sea (black). The glacier is surrounded by landmass, indicated by the red colour in the upper and the lower part of the picture. In recent years, hardly any place on earth has been more affected by climate warming than the Arctic: The ice along the edge of the giant ice cap is getting thinner and thinner, and glaciers are calving more and more rapidly. It remains to be seen if increasing snowfalls on the inner landmass can make up for the loss of frozen material at the edge of the ice cap.

 

Location: Greenland
Picture taken on September 30, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: R/NIR/SWIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Forest Fires in West Russia

This satellite image shows the billows of smoke hovering over West Russia. The smoke results from the devastating forest and peat fires during the summer of 2010. The fires were caused by a lasting heat wave that resulted from the so-called omega block. During this block, an extremely stable high developed over Russia. All in all, 30,000 sources of forest fires were registered, spanning an area larger than 1,2 million hectare.

 

Location: West Russia
Picture taken on August 5, 2010
Sensor: Terra MODIS

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Smog in China

Dense smog has developed in the north of China, across Beijing and Shanghai, i.e. a distance of 1200 km, equivalent to the distance between Kiel (Germany) and Florence (Italy). The smog appears as a brown to grayish area. The concentration of respirable fine particles was 480 micrograms per cubic metre (µg/m³) in Beijing and 355 in Shanghai that day. The WHO limit for fine particles dangerous to health is 25 µg/m³.

 

The white areas are mist or clouds. Under the smog and along the cost there are hints of the sediment influx into the sea caused by the Yellow River and the Yangtze.

 

Location: China

Sensor: Terra MODIS

Picture taken on December 7, 2013

NASA, LANCE MODIS Rapid Response
Floods in East China

This image shows Yangtze River with its numerous tributaries, wiggling its way through the picture. Between the river delta on the right-hand side of the picture and the big lake, you can see the megacity of Shanghai which is partly flooded. Due to the false-colour  combination of the image, the land surface is yellowish, whereas the shades of dark red or brown indicate water.

 

Location: China, Shanghai
Picture taken on August 1, 2003
Sensor: Terra MODIS
Band combination: NIR/MIR

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Carajás Iron Ore Mine, Brazil

In this image, you can see one of the largest iron ore mines worldwide: the Carajás Mine. In the Carajás Mine, minerals are being removed from the surface layer by layer. In 2007, 296 million tons of iron ore were extracted. The Carajás Mine is estimated to hold approximately 18 billion tons of iron ore, gold, manganese, copper and nickel. In this image, the contrast between the red earth of the surface mining and the surrounding rain forest is striking. On the periphery of the image, you can see that rain forest has been cleared in favour of cultivated land.

 

Location: Para, Brazil
Picture taken on July 26, 2009
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

NASA (Jesse Allen); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Salt Lake in Australia

In Central Australia, a large area of “ephemeral lakes” stretches across the borders of several states. Due to an average precipitation of 149 to 216 millimetres p.a., the lake basins are only occasionally filled with water and remain dry-as-dust salines most of the year. This image shows the easternmost periphery of Lake Frome in South Australia. When the picture was taken, Lake Frome was a dry salt lake filled with white sediment. The surface of the lake is uneven and characterised by drop-shaped hills.

 

Location: Australia
Picture taken on March 7, 2009
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); USGS; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

On April 20, 2010 the oil drilling rig “Deepwater Horizon” leased by BP exploded in the Gulf of Mexico. This accident resulted in one of the most devastating natural disasters of our time: Over months, more than several hundred millions of litres of oil streamed into the sea. As the catastrophe unfolded, the oil also reached the Mississippi Delta. There is reason to believe that a part of the spill reached the world-spanning sea currents as well and thus has been spreading globally ever since. The oil spill that can be seen in the image only shows a small part of the scope of the disaster.

 

Location: Gulf of Mexico
Picture taken on April 25, 2010
Sensor: Aqua MODIS

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Brasilia, Brazil

The city of Brasilia was planned from scratch by architect Oscar Niemeyer and urban planner Lucio Costa. It formally became the federal capital of Brazil on April 21, 1960. Since that day, Brasilia has been growing continually. Initially planned for only 500,000 residents, a number exceeded in 1970, about 2.6 million people were living in Brasilia in 2009. In this satellite image from 2002, you can see the satellite suburbs that developed almost arbitrarily in the surroundings of Brasilia.

 

Location: Brasilia, Brazil
Picture taken on July 23, 2002
Sensor: Landsat ETM+

 

 

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Lethal Poison on the Coast of Namibia

This satellite image shows a turquoise hydrogen sulphide cloud offshore Namibia. This cloud developed under oxygen-deficient conditions at the bottom of the sea as a result of the micro bacterial decomposition of organic material. Hydrogen sulphide is lethal when eaten by fishes and other marine creatures, constituting a serious problem for the fishers. Above the turquoise cloud, you can see billows of sand that are being blown from the Namib Desert onto the open sea.

 

Location: Namibia
Picture taken on June 17, 2010
Sensor: Terra MODIS

NASA/GSFC, Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Lena Delta, Russia

The Lena delta in Russia is one of the largest river deltas in the world. This image detail shows some lakes and their tributaries. Flowing through Russia from the south, the Lena empties into the Arctic Ocean far north of the Arctic Circle. The tundra wetland is changing constantly and dynamically. The delta already started to develop 1,6 million years ago during the Pleistocene period, the glacial period of the ice age. During this time, large parts of Germany were buried by massive glaciers as well. The shape of the fan delta as we know it today developed approximately 7,000 years ago.

 

Location: North Russia
Picture taken on July 27, 2000
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band composition: R/G/B

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Harmful Algal Bloom in the Atlantic Ocean

This image shows a part of the Atlantic Ocean west of Ireland, England and France in spring. The turquoise-green whirl indicates a large-scale algal bloom. Essentially, the algal bloom is a natural and seasonal phenomenon. However, in the case of a massive accumulation due to a nutrient oversupply of the water, it can be harmful. The toxic quality of the algal bloom can cause massive fish mortality and the overproduction of bio mass can result in an imbalance of ecosystems.

 

Location: Atlantic Ocean
Picture taken on May 22, 2010
Sensor: Terra MODIS

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Great Barrier Reef

Containing 2900 single reefs and 71 coral islands, the Great Barrier Reef off the coast of Australia is the largest reef system in the world. In this satellite image, the Great Barrier Reef contrasts with the dark sea water due to the strong reflections of the reef material, which is rich in carbonate. Right off the coast, you can see how sediment flows into the ocean while, once it enters the open sea, its colour can no longer be distinguished from the sea water due to vortices.

 

Location: Australia
Picture taken on August 6, 2004
Sensor: Terra MODIS

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
The Great Wall of China

This satellite image shows an area in the north of the Chinese province Shanxi. The blanket of snow reflects the low sun and highlights a part of the Great Wall of China which crosses the picture as a diagonal line. Also called the “Great Wall”, this famous landmark is more than 2000 years old and was built during a period of 1000 years. It is 7240 km long and stretches from Korea to the Gobi Desert. The Great Wall of China was erected in order to protect China against attacks from the north.

 

Location: Shanxi, China
Picture taken on January 9, 2001
Sensor: Terra ASTER

 

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
Ouachita Mountains

The Ouachita Mountains in west central USA are more than 300 million years old. Today, they are weather-beaten and noticeably  eroded. The remains that you can see in this image were once a part of a much more extensive mountain range that is believed to have spanned from Texas to Southeast Canada. The image combined information from the wavelength ranges of infrared, red and green. The complex shape of the mountains is characterised by a pattern of longish, folded formations. Between the mountain slopes, you can see water, vegetation, cities and streets.

 

Location: USA
Picture taken on November 13, 2002
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: R/G/IR

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Underwater Hill

The water off the coast of the Bahamas shimmers in light blue since it is partly only less than ten metres deep. Therefore, it might be regarded as an extension of the islands below the surface of the water. Since the underwater hill of the Great Bahama Bank steeply descends as deep as 400 metres, this is marked in the satellite image by a strong colour change to dark blue. The white structures above the islands indicate convective clouds: The land areas of the islands force the moist air to rise and to condense in the cold air aloft.

 

Location: Bahamas, Middle America
Picture taken on February 12, 2009
Sensor: Aqua MODIS
Band combination: R/G/B

NASA/GSFC (Jeff Schmaltz); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
The Paraná Delta

The delta of the Paraná River is a huge arboreous wetland 30 km northeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina. This area is a popular destination for guided boat tours. Moreover, the delta is one of the biggest birdwatching sites worldwide. This false-colour image shows the striking contrast between dense woods, wet swamps and the blue Paraná. It combines information from the short-wavelength and near infrared as well as from the green wavelength range.

 

Location: Argentina
Picture taken on May 26, 2000
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: G/SIR/NIR

USGS/EROS; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
High Speed Test Track in Italy

In this satellite image, you can see the circular shape of the high speed test track Pista di Nardò, located next to the town of Nardò in South Italy. Due to its banked lanes, vehicles can pick up speeds of up to 500 km/h on a 12,6 km lane. Since the track was built in 1970, car companies and racing drivers have been using it for test runs. If you are driving at a speed of about 320 km/h, you feel like you are driving in a straight lane.

 

Location: Nardò, Italy
Picture taken on August 17, 2007
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: R/G/B

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Deforestation of the Rain Forest

The indigenous peoples of Latin America are facing serious problems caused by the large-scale deforestation of the rain forests. The false-colour image of Bolivia is representative of this issue. Losing their living environment, which was once used sustainably, indigenous peoples are increasingly marginalised and forced to live in poverty. Tropical rain forests are particularly sensitive to outside influences because they are drawing all of their potential from the natural cycles of materials because their ground is lacking nutrient stores. The exploitation of the grounds is followed by the abandonment of the fields leaving huge scars in the landscape. Sadly, the once so rich diversity of species will probably be lost forever.

 

Location: Bolivia
Picture taken on August 9, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: IR/G/B

USGS; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov
The Earth from Outer Space

The world from the view of a satellite.

 

Picture taken on July 11, 2005

Sensor: Terra MODIS

NASA (Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Ship Clouds above the Pacific Ocean

This impressive image shows the legacies of ships in the atmosphere. The white traces of clouds have an effect on the natural clouds: Particles of exhaust gas (aerosols) increase the reflectivity of the clouds which means they can absorb more water. This leads to a reduced precipitation. Even though the use of fossil fuels of ships only accounts for a relatively small part of the changing atmosphere, this image gives an idea which impacts human actions can have on nature.

 

Location: Pacific Ocean
Picture taken on July 3, 2010
Sensor: Aqua MODIS

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
Cloud Whirls above the Galápagos Islands

The thirteen Galápagos Islands are located in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, approximately 1000 km west of Ecuador. This archipelago is famous for its unique diversity of animals and plants and has become a part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Due to the works of Charles Darwin, whose journey to the islands in 1835 furthered his theory of evolution, the Galápagos Islands have become widely known.

 

Location: Galápagos Islands
Picture taken on September 8, 2010
Sensor: Terra MODIS

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov
The Large Salt Desert

The salt desert Dasht-e Kavir is located in Iran in the east of the Zagros Mountains. Being the largest Iranian desert, it is a gigantic salt pan whose crusts of salt protect the ground against total dehydration. On the left-hand side of the picture, you can see one of the few streets crossing the largely uninhabited wasteland.

 

Location: Iran
Picture taken on May 10, 2003
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+

USGS/EROS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
Crater Lakes

Approximately 290 billion years ago, two big asteroids collided with the Earth. The craters are still visible - to astronauts in the orbit, the lakes inside the craters are popular subjects for photographs. The crater lakes' diameter is 26 resp. 36 kilometres.

 

At the time of collision, the area had been at the equator, but plate tectonics lead to a northward shift. Nowadays, the crater lakes are in Qebec, Canada. During the ice ages, the landscape was grounded by glaciers. By the time they had melted, much of the cracks in the bare rocks filled with the left-over water. Thus the network of linear rivers and lakes was formed.

 

Location: Quebec, Kanada

Picture taken on June 29, 2013

Sensor: Landsat 8 - OLI

NASA Earth Observatory, Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/
Global Portrait of Wind Flow

This model shows the wind system on Earth. Near-ground wind flows are coloured in white (0-40 m/s), winds of the upper stratosphere are multi-coloured (0-175 m/s), while red signals the highest velocity. Cyclones appear as white dots above the ocean. The multi-coloured waves are the jet streams.

 

Modelling is based on several years of satellite-based observation, including sea surface temperature, as well as emissions caused by forest fires, volcanoes, and human sources.

 

Model: GEOS-5

Resolution: 10 km

NASA GSFC; Link: http://www.nasa.gov/
Tacloban Before and After Haiyan

The taifun Haiyan hit the phillipines with wind speed up to 315 km/h, accompanied by a spring flood, on the 8th of November 2013. A water wall, 7.5 m in height, threatened the city of Tacloban which is located less than 5 m above sea level. The satellite image taken by ASTER shows vegetation in red, sealed surfaces in white to silver, soil in brown and water in black. The white spots are clouds.

The puce-coloured hills signal that the local forests lost their leaves or snapped entirely.  Whether this was caused by the storm cannot be examined because this region is often covered in clouds.

Looking at the images carefully, the white to grey areas near the coast streaked by brown lines attract attention, and there is few settlement on the southern coast. The flood teared away many of the buildings and covered the streets in mud. The southern coastal area is partly black, meaning that water has accumulated in sinks.

 

Location: Philippines

Picture taken on November 15, 2013

Sensor: Terra ASTER

USGS / EROS; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/
Ash clouds over Sakura-Jima

The volcano Sakura-Jima on the Japanese Island Kyushu emitted a dense ash cloud. Currently, it is the most active volcano in Japan, erupting several hundred times per year. Normally, these eruptions are fairly small, but sometimes a great eruption can form an ash cloud of 3.8 km in height.

 

This volcanoe, called "cherry blossom island" in Japanese and more than 1 km high, is in the very south of the Japanese main islands in the prefecture Kagoshima. There are many other volcanoes close-by, nevertheless, there are some cities with several hundret thousand inhabitants, i.e. Kagoshima directly opposite to Sakura-Jima.

 

Location: Japan

Picture taken on November 11, 2013

Sensor: Landsat 8 - OLI

NASA Earth Observatory
Sand Dunes, Idaho

Along highway 20 from Idaho Falls heading toward Yellowstone National Park, green and golden fields dominate the fertile plain of the Snake River. The circular areas indicate extensively irrigated farmland. The white dunes developed towards the end of the last ice age approximately 10 000 years ago when the global climate started to become warmer and drier. Lakes and rivers dried up leaving fine sand behind. Continuous winds from the south west blew the sand in northeasterly direction, passing lava fields which are quite dark in the picture.

 

Location: Idaho, USA
Picture taken on September 9, 2010
Sensor: EO-1 – ALI
Band combination: R/ G/ B

 

NASA (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov
Gravitational Waves on the Coast of Australia

This unusual image shows a part of the Pacific Ocean northwest of Australia and exemplifies the interaction between the atmosphere and the quiet sea of the Indian Ocean.
Atmospheric gravitational waves develop from the rise and fall of air in vertical undulations. If air masses sink during the undulations, they roughen the surface of the water. In the satellite image, this section of the water surface is darker than the smooth surface between the wave troughs. As can be seen in the upper part of the picture, clouds develop above the wave crests quite often.

 

Location: Australia
Picture taken on October 27, 2010
Sensor: Terra MODIS

 

 

NASA/GSFC (Jeff Schmaltz); Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov