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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

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:

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:

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


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:

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