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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

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

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/

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/

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/

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

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

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

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/

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/

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

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

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

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

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)