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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

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

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

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

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

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/

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

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

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

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

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

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 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/

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

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/

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

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

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