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The thirteen Galápagos Islands are located in the eastern part of the Pacific Ocean, approximately 1000 km west of Ecuador. This archipelago is famous for its unique diversity of animals and plants and has become a part of the UNESCO World Cultural Heritage. Due to the works of Charles Darwin, whose journey to the islands in 1835 furthered his theory of evolution, the Galápagos Islands have become widely known.


Location: Galápagos Islands
Picture taken on September 8, 2010
Sensor: Terra MODIS


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


The indigenous peoples of Latin America are facing serious problems caused by the large-scale deforestation of the rain forests. The false-colour image of Bolivia is representative of this issue. Losing their living environment, which was once used sustainably, indigenous peoples are increasingly marginalised and forced to live in poverty. Tropical rain forests are particularly sensitive to outside influences because they are drawing all of their potential from the natural cycles of materials because their ground is lacking nutrient stores. The exploitation of the grounds is followed by the abandonment of the fields leaving huge scars in the landscape. Sadly, the once so rich diversity of species will probably be lost forever.


Location: Bolivia
Picture taken on August 9, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: IR/G/B

USGS; Link:

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


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


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




The volcano Mount Taranaki in Egmont National Park on the west coast of New Zealand’s North Island is currently dormant. Mount Taranaki is located in an area with heavy precipitation and a mild maritime climate. In this image, the peak of the almost perfectly symmetrical stratovulcano is covered with snow. Due to the radial limitation of the nature reserve surrounding the volcanic crater, the land-cover pattern is striking. The extensive rain forest in the surroundings of the volcano contrasts with the neighbouring farmland.


Location: New Zealand’s North Island
Picture taken on May 27, 2001
Sensor: Terra ASTER




In this image, you can see one of the largest iron ore mines worldwide: the Carajás Mine. In the Carajás Mine, minerals are being removed from the surface layer by layer. In 2007, 296 million tons of iron ore were extracted. The Carajás Mine is estimated to hold approximately 18 billion tons of iron ore, gold, manganese, copper and nickel. In this image, the contrast between the red earth of the surface mining and the surrounding rain forest is striking. On the periphery of the image, you can see that rain forest has been cleared in favour of cultivated land.


Location: Para, Brazil
Picture taken on July 26, 2009
Sensor: EO-1 - ALI

NASA (Jesse Allen); 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