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Ship Clouds above the Pacific Ocean

Credits
NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

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

Harmful Algal Bloom in the Atlantic Ocean

Credits
NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

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

Lethal Poison on the Coast of Namibia

Credits
NASA/GSFC, Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

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

Oil Spill in the Gulf of Mexico

Credits
NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

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.

Calving Glacier in Greenland

Credits
USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

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.

 

Artificial Islands in Qatar

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

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.

Mertz Glacier and Icebergs

Credits
NASA (Jesse Allen); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

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

 

Underwater Hill

Credits
NASA/GSFC (Jeff Schmaltz); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

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.

 

Gravitational Waves on the Coast of Australia

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

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.