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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

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/

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

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

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/

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