NASA Earth Observatory

 

Atmosphere

Results for: Atmosphere

 

Top 11 from 2011

The most-visited images published in the Earth Observatory from 2011 are featured in this gallery. Read more

 

2011 Hurricane Season and NASA Research: An Interview with Scott Braun

With the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season approaching its peak, a NASA meteorologist explores the key questions in hurricane research. Read more

 

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon flows between the atmosphere, land, and ocean in a cycle that encompasses nearly all life and sets the thermostat for Earth's climate. By burning fossil fuels, people are changing the carbon cycle with far-reaching consequences. Read more

 

Earth Matters Blog

Earth is an amazing planet, and the one that matters most to us. Let's have a conversation about it. Read more

 

Heavy Rains and Dry Lands Don't Mix: Reflections on the 2010 Pakistan Flood

Unusual atmospheric conditions brought exceptional rain to Pakistan in the summer of 2010, causing the country's worst flooding in modern history. Read more

 

Aerosols: Tiny Particles, Big Impact

Tiny aerosol particles can be found over oceans, deserts, mountains, forests, ice sheets, and every ecosystem in between. They drift in the air from the stratosphere to the surface. Despite their small size, they have major impacts on our climate and our health. Read more

 

The Water Cycle

Landscape sculptor. Climate driver. Life supporter. Water is the most important molecule on our planet. Read more

 

 

Notes from the Field Blog - Urban Aerosols: Who CARES?

Join us as NASA scientists aboard a B-200 aircraft cruise over California sampling urban pollution and other aerosols during the Carbonaceous Aerosol and Radiative Effects Study (CARES). Read more

 

Global Warming

Global warming is happening now, and scientists are confident that greenhouse gases are responsible. To understand what this means for humanity, it is necessary to understand what global warming is, how scientists know it's happening, and how they predict future climate. Read more

 

Climate Q&A

From why global warming is a problem to whether increased solar activity could be behind it, this Q&A includes responses to common questions about climate change and global warming. Read more

 

World of Change: El Niño, La Niña, and Rainfall

For many people, El Niño and La Niña mean floods or drought, but the events are actually a warming or cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean that impacts rainfall. These sea surface temperature and rainfall anomaly images show the direct correlation between ocean temperatures and rainfall during El Niño and La Niña events. Read more

World of Change: Severe Storms

This collection of images featuring the strongest hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon from any ocean during each year of the past decade includes storms both famous—or infamous—and obscure. Read more

 

World of Change: Antarctic Ozone Hole

In the early 1980s, scientists began to realize that CFCs were creating a thin spot—a hole—in the ozone layer over Antarctica every spring. This series of satellite images shows the ozone hole on the day of its maximum depth each year from 1979 through 2010. Read more

 

Earth Perspectives

In 2008, as NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Earth Observatory asked a number of Earth scientists what we have learned about our home planet by going into space. Read more

 

American Carbon: Vulcan Project Maps Nation's Fossil Fuel Emissions in Detail

The Vulcan Project maps when and where Americans burn fossil fuels. Read more

 

Cities at Night: The View from Space

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station capture nighttime photographs of city lights, spectacular evidence of humanity's existence, our distribution, and our ability to change our environment. Read more

 

Science Blog - Expedition to Siberia

As Earth's average temperature rises, and most rapidly in the high latitudes, what is happening to the great northern forests of Siberia? Join scientists from NASA and Russia's Academy of Science on an expedition down the Kochechum River in north-central Siberia as they go in search of answers. Read more

The Amazon's Seasonal Secret

Satellite data detect previously unknown seasonal cycles in the leaf area of the Amazon Rainforest. Increasing leaf area during the sunny dry season may actually trigger the seasonal rains. Read more

 

Arctic Reflection: Clouds Replace Snow and Ice as Solar Reflector

Using satellite observations of sea ice and clouds, scientists discover that Earth’s poles are still effective reflectors for incoming sunlight. Read more

 

Urban Rain

Most city dwellers worry about what the weather will do to their city, but for meteorologist Marshall Shepherd, the real question is what are cities doing to the weather. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: Understanding the Past to Predict the Future

Scientists use complicated climate models to predict how Earth's climate might change in the future. One of the best ways to test the reliability of such models is to see how well they recreate climates of the past. Read more

Hurricanes: The Greatest Storms on Earth

Few things in nature can compare to the destructive force of a hurricane. Called the greatest storm on Earth, a hurricane is capable of annihilating coastal areas with sustained winds of 155 mph or higher and intense areas of rainfall and a storm surge. In fact, during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs! Read more

Tracking Nature's Contribution to Pollution

Scientists combined models and satellite data to track the spread of pollutants from forest fires in Alaska and Canada in 2004. They discovered that fires can have a significant impact on air pollution far from the fires location. Read more

 
 

Blue Marble Next Generation

12 months of high-resolution global true color satellite imagery. Read more



Cloudy with a Chance of Drizzle

By analyzing data from the MISR instrument, scientists discover that a unique type of cloud formation is much more prevalent than previously believed. Read more

 

Nimbus' 40th Anniversary

On August 28, 2004, NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Nimbus-1 Earth-observation satellite. Starting in 1964 and for the next twenty years, the Nimbus series of missions was the United States' primary research and development platform for satellite remote-sensing of the Earth. Read more

Deep Freeze and Sea Breeze: Changing Land and Weather in Florida

A regional climate model and NASA satellite data say land cover change in south Florida has created both hotter, drier summers, and more severe freezes in the winter. Read more

Paleoclimatology: The Oxygen Balance

Oxygen is one of the most significant keys to deciphering past climates. Read more

 

 

Terra Turns Five

In February 2000, NASA's Terra satellite began measuring Earth's vital signs with a combination of accuracy, precision, and resolution the world had never before seen. While the mission is still in the process of fulfilling its main science objectives, Terra's portfolio of achievements to date already marks the mission a resounding success. Read more

 

Polar Wind Data Blow New Life Into Forecasts

Where real-world weather observations are scarce, scientists are estimating winds by tracking the movement of clouds and water vapor between consecutive Terra and Aqua satellite images. In a new Earthsky podcast, atmospheric scientist Jeff Key talks about how the technique has improved forecasts and what will happen when these NASA missions reach their end. Read more

Aura: A Mission Dedicated to the Health of Earth's Atmosphere

On July 15, 2004 at 3:02 a.m., NASA launched the Aura satellite, the third flagship in a series of Earth-observing satellites designed to view Earth as a whole system, observe the net results of complex interactions within the climate system, and understand how the planet is changing in response to natural and human influences. Read more

A New IDEA in Air Quality Monitoring

NASA satellite data of regional haze allow EPA scientists to expand their focus from local to regional air quality monitoring and forecasting. Read more

 

Clouds are Cooler than Smoke

New NASA research shows that smoke from fires in the Amazon Basin inhibits clouds and exerts a warming influence on Earth's surface. Read more

 

Joanne Simpson

Joanne Simpson became the first woman Ph.D. meteorologist. She also pioneered studies of cloud models, hurricanes, weather modification, and guided the development of the Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission. Read more

 

Will Runaway Water Warm the World?

As the Earth heats up more water will make its way into the atmosphere, trapping even heat near the surface. To predict how much temperatures could rise in the future, scientists are working to understand how much water could enter the atmosphere and how that might contribute to climate change. Read more

Tango in the Atmosphere: Ozone and Climate Change

Over recent decades the stratosphere has cooled while stratospheric ozone has decreased. Low temperatures could be causing further ozone depletion, which may delay recovery of the ozone layer. Read more

 

Smoke's Surprising Secret

A high school student in Texas working on a back yard science project made a surprising discovery in the spring of 2002. Intending to detect the presence of fungal spores and bacteria in globe-trotting dust, Sarah Mims instead discovered that fungal spores had hitched a ride across the Gulf of Mexico with smoke from fires in Central America. This young, amateur scientist's discovery could change the prevailing wisdom on the benefits of burning diseased crops or timber. Read more

 
 

Heat

Results for: Heat

Looking Back on Ten Years of Aqua

Launched on May 4, 2002, NASA's Aqua satellite and its six instruments have provided a decade's worth of unprecedented views of our planet. Here are a few of our favorites. Read more

Where Is the Hottest Place on Earth?

Satellite research shows that the world’s hottest spot changes, though the conditions don’t. Think dry, rocky, and dark-colored lands...and cities. Read more

Earth Matters Blog

Earth is an amazing planet, and the one that matters most to us. Let's have a conversation about it. Read more

 

World of Change: Global Temperatures

The world is getting warmer, whatever the cause. According to an analysis by NASA scientists, the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975. Read more

Global Warming

Global warming is happening now, and scientists are confident that greenhouse gases are responsible. To understand what this means for humanity, it is necessary to understand what global warming is, how scientists know it's happening, and how they predict future climate. Read more

Climate Q&A

From why global warming is a problem to whether increased solar activity could be behind it, this Q&A includes responses to common questions about climate change and global warming. Read more

 

The World We Avoided by Protecting the Ozone Layer

An international team of scientists used a state-of-the-art computer model to learn “what might have been” if ozone-destroying chemicals had not been banned through the 1989 Montreal Protocol. Read more

World of Change: Solar Activity

Images of sunspots and UV brightness document the 11-year cycle of solar magnetic activity. The series spans 1999–2010, capturing the most recent solar maximum and minimum, as well as the emergence of solar cycle 24. Read more

Climate and Earth’s Energy Budget

Earth’s temperature depends on how much sunlight the land, oceans, and atmosphere absorb, and how much heat the planet radiates back to space. This fact sheet describes the net flow of energy through different parts of the Earth system, and explains how the planetary energy budget stays in balance. Read more

Correcting Ocean Cooling

Scientists revise their conclusion that the ocean has cooled since 2003. Read more

 

Earth's Temperature Tracker

NASA scientist James Hansen has tracked Earth's temperature for decades, and he is confident the global warming trend of 0.9 degrees Celsius observed since 1880 is mainly the result of human-produced greenhouse gases. Read more

Science Blog - Expedition to Siberia

As Earth's average temperature rises, and most rapidly in the high latitudes, what is happening to the great northern forests of Siberia? Join scientists from NASA and Russia's Academy of Science on an expedition down the Kochechum River in north-central Siberia as they go in search of answers. Read more

Beating the Heat in the World's Big Cities

Green roofs can mitigate urban heat islands and heat waves. Read more



Ask-A-Scientist

Questions from visitors to the Earth Observatory and answers from scientists. Read more

 

Earth's Big Heat Bucket

The Earth now absorbs more energy than it emits back into space, and the excess heat is hiding in the ocean. Read more

 

Will Runaway Water Warm the World?

As the Earth heats up more water will make its way into the atmosphere, trapping even heat near the surface. To predict how much temperatures could rise in the future, scientists are working to understand how much water could enter the atmosphere and how that might contribute to climate change. Read more

Aurora Dancing in the Night

Astronaut Don Pettit describes the aurora he photographed while aboard the International Space Station. Read more

 

Dwindling Arctic Ice

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has been melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. NASA researcher Josefino Comiso points to an accelerating warming trend as a primary cause and discusses how global climate change may be influencing the shrinking Arctic ice cap. Read more

Under a Variable Sun

In their continued effort to understand the Sun, solar physicists of the 21st century have used satellite data to study how much energy reaches the outskirts of the Earth’s atmosphere and whether or how much that amount varies over time. Recently published research claims that the amount of solar energy reaching the Earth has increased over the past two solar cycles, while other scientists doubt that any such change has occurred. This story describes how gaps in the set of observations and uncertainty about the accuracy of different satellite sensors have made splicing together a complete data set so controversial. Read more

A Delicate Balance: Signs of Change in the Tropics

While NASA climate scientists were reviewing radiation data emanating from the tropics simply to test existing notions, they uncovered a phenomenon no one expected. They found that progressively more thermal radiation has been escaping the atmosphere above the tropics and progressively less sunlight has been reflecting off of the clouds. Read more

Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) Fact Sheet

Earth scientists will move a step closer to a full understanding of the Sun's energy output with the launch of the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite. SORCE will be equipped with four instruments now being built at the University of Colorado that will measure variations in solar radiation much more accurately than anything now in use and observe some of the spectral properties of solar radiation for the first time. With data from NASA's SORCE mission, researchers should be able to follow how the Sun affects our climate now and in the future. (Original 2001-11-30; updated 2003-01-21) Read more

Does the Earth Have an Iris Analog

Much like the iris in a human eye contracts to allow less light to pass through the pupil in a brightly lit environment, Lindzen suggests that the area covered by high cirrus clouds contracts to allow more heat to escape into outer space from a very warm environment. Read more

Arbiters of Energy

Clouds play a crucial role in regulating the balance of energy received by and emitted from the Earth, but scientists aren?t sure exactly what this role is. Read more

 

Power to the People

Thanks to a team at NASA's Langley Research Center (LaRC), engineers and amateur inventors worldwide now have free access to global-scale data on natural renewable energy resources. Private companies are using these data to design, build, and market new technologies for harnessing this energy. The best part is many of these new systems will be marketed at affordable prices in underdeveloped countries for those who need them most. Read more

A Violent Sun Affects the Earth's Ozone

A new study confirms a long-held theory that large solar storms rain electrically charged particles down on Earth's atmosphere and deplete the upper-level ozone for weeks to months thereafter. New evidence from NASA and NOAA satellites is helping scientists better understand how man and nature both play a role in ozone loss. Read more

Watching the Sun

The Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor III will monitor the sun's total radiation output so scientists can better predict the sun's effect on global climate change. Read more

 

Carbon Conundrum

Carbon Conundrum

Paradoxically, an increase in global temperature may both increase and decrease atmospheric carbon dioxide. The key is timing. Read more

 

 

On a Clear Day

Researchers clarified the issues encountered in modeling clear-sky shortwave radiation by assembling a long-term data set of cloud-free days to test the models. Read more

 

Blanket of Clouds

Recent studies indicate that clouds absorb significantly more shortwave radiation than previously thought. Read more

 

Questioning Convection

How well do climate models work? Read more

 

Sunspots and the Solar Max

This fact sheet describes solar phenomenon such as sunspots and the solar wind. Read more

 

Eye on the Sun - Solstice

SOLSTICE, an instrument aboard the UARS satellite, created a standard against which future monitoring of the Sun could be measured. Read more

 

 

ACRIMSAT

By measuring the total amount of energy that the sun delivers to the Earth with ACRIMSAT, scientists will be able to build better scientific models of the Earth’s climate system, providing a vital piece of the global climate change puzzle. Read more

Clouds & Radiation Fact Sheet

The study of clouds, where they occur, and their characteristics, plays a key role in the understanding of climate change. Low, thick clouds reflect solar radiation and cool the Earth's surface. High, thin clouds transmit incoming solar radiation and also trap some of the outgoing infrared radiation emitted by the Earth, warming the surface. Read more

Land

Results for: Land

Greatest Hits from Landsat

Landsat 1 was launched in July 1972, starting the longest continuous observation of Earth's land surfaces from space. Here are some of the memorable scientific and societal contributions from the 40-year-old program. Read more

Landsat Looks and Sees

The world’s longest-running Earth-observing satellite program has collected more than three million images, showing two generations of planetary evolution and of human imprints on Earth. The Landsat archives tell an unparalleled story of our land surfaces. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Siberia 2012 - Embenchime River Expedition

A dedicated team of scientists has returned to the remote boreal forests of northern Siberia to study how the boreal ecosystem moderates Earth's climate by storing carbon and the implications of a warming climate on those forests. Read more

Looking Back on Ten Years of Aqua

Launched on May 4, 2002, NASA's Aqua satellite and its six instruments have provided a decade's worth of unprecedented views of our planet. Here are a few of our favorites. Read more

Where Is the Hottest Place on Earth?

Satellite research shows that the world’s hottest spot changes, though the conditions don’t. Think dry, rocky, and dark-colored lands...and cities. Read more

 

Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami: Looking Back from Space

In 2011, the fourth largest earthquake in history rocked the coast of Japan, spawning a devastating tsunami. Satellites and scientists had an unprecedented view of both. This gallery offers a glimpse of the broad scale of the destruction, of the recovery a year later, and of some new scientific understanding that emerged. Read more

 

Seeing Forests for the Trees and the Carbon: Mapping the World’s Forests in Three Dimensions

Earth has a carbon problem, and some think trees are the answer. Would it help to plant more? To cut down fewer? Does it matter where? Scientists are working to get a better inventory of the carbon stored in trees. Read more

World of Change: Athabasca Oil Sands

The Athabasca Oil Sands are at once a source of oil, of economic growth, and of environmental concern. This series of images shows the growth of surface mines around the Athabasca River from 1984 to the present. Read more

IceBridge: Building a Record of Earth’s Changing Ice, One Flight at a Time

NASA is sending a fleet of airplanes to the ends of the Earth for the next several years to figure out how and why polar ice is changing. Read more

World of Change: Seasons of the Indus River

Fed by glaciers in the Himalayas and Karakorams — and by monsoon rains — the Indus River experiences substantial fluctuations every year. Because the river irrigates 18 million hectares of farmland, the landscape changes along with the river. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Eco3D: Exploring the Third Dimension of Forest Carbon

From August through September, NASA's P-3 research aircraft will be flying from Quebec to Florida to measure the three-dimensional structure and carbon storage capacity of North American forests. Read more

The Carbon Cycle

Carbon flows between the atmosphere, land, and ocean in a cycle that encompasses nearly all life and sets the thermostat for Earth's climate. By burning fossil fuels, people are changing the carbon cycle with far-reaching consequences. Read more

Heavy Rains and Dry Lands Don't Mix: Reflections on the 2010 Pakistan Flood

Unusual atmospheric conditions brought exceptional rain to Pakistan in the summer of 2010, causing the country's worst flooding in modern history. Read more

We Can See Clearly Now: ISS Window Observational Research Facility

New optical gear on the International Space Station is giving students and earth scientists a better view of our world. Read more

World of Change: Global Temperatures

The world is getting warmer, whatever the cause. According to an analysis by NASA scientists, the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975. Read more

Earth Observing-1: Ten Years of Innovation

Scheduled to fly for a year, designed to last a year and a half, EO-1 celebrated its tenth anniversary on November 21, 2010. During its decade in space, the satellite has accomplished far more than anyone dreamed. Read more

World of Change: Seasons of Lake Tahoe

Perhaps the most familiar change in our changing world is the annual swing of the seasons. This series of images shows the effects of the seasons on the Lake Tahoe region between 2009 and 2010. Read more

The Water Cycle

Landscape sculptor. Climate driver. Life supporter. Water is the most important molecule on our planet. Read more

 

 
 

Dalia Kirschbaum Talks About Making a Global Landslide Inventory

NASA scientist Dalia Kirschbaum talks about the potential for a global inventory of rain-triggered landslides to help scientists better understand when and where landslides are most likely to occur. Read more

Frozen Ground: An Interview with Permafrost Expert Larry Hinzman

NASA interviews Larry Hinzman, director of the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska, about greenhouse gases trapped beneath the Arctic permafrost. Read more

Global Warming

Global warming is happening now, and scientists are confident that greenhouse gases are responsible. To understand what this means for humanity, it is necessary to understand what global warming is, how scientists know it's happening, and how they predict future climate. Read more

World of Change: Devastation and Recovery at Mt. St. Helens

The devastation of the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the gradual recovery of the surrounding landscape is documented in this series of satellite images from 1979—2011. Read more

World of Change: Yellow River Delta

Once free to wander up and down the coast of the North China Plain, the Yellow River Delta has been shaped by levees, canals, and jetties in recent decades. Read more

Water Watchers

In Idaho, NASA’s Landsat satellites are helping officials manage water resources and settle conflicts. Read more

 

World of Change: Drought Cycles in Australia

Drought has taken a severe toll on croplands in Southeast Australia during many years this decade. Read more

 

NASA's Newest Map of the World

Why did it take nearly three decades for scientists to create the first global portraits of Earth from NASA's Landsat missions? Read more

 

World of Change: Severe Storms

This collection of images featuring the strongest hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon from any ocean during each year of the past decade includes storms both famous—or infamous—and obscure. Read more

 

Planetary Motion: The History of an Idea That Launched the Scientific Revolution

Attempts of Renaissance astronomers to explain the puzzling path of planets across the night sky led to modern science’s understanding of gravity and motion. Read more

World of Change: Burn Recovery in Yellowstone

In 1988, wildfires raced through Yellowstone National Park, consuming hundreds of thousands of acres. This series of Landsat images tracks the landscape’s slow recovery through 2011. Read more

World of Change: Global Biosphere

Earth would not be the planet that it is without its biosphere, the sum of its life. This series of images illustrates the variations in the average productivity of the global biosphere from 1999 to 2008. Read more

World of Change: Amazon Deforestation

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. This series shows deforestation on the frontier in the northwestern part of the state between 2000 and 2010. Read more

World of Change: Shrinking Aral Sea

A massive irrigation project in the Kyzylkum Desert of central Asia has devastated the Aral Sea over the past 50 years. These images show the continued decline of the Southern Aral Sea in the past decade, as well as the first steps of recovery in the Northern Aral Sea in recent years. Read more

World of Change: Water Level in Lake Powell

Drought struck southern Utah in the early twenty-first century. The drought’s effects were easily seen in the fluctuating water levels of Lake Powell. Read more

 

World of Change: Mesopotamia Marshes

In the years following the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi residents began reclaiming the country’s nearly decimated Mesopotamian marshes. This series of images documents the transformation of the fabled landscape between 2000 and 2009. Read more

World of Change: Urbanization of Dubai

To expand the possibilities for beachfront tourist development, Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, undertook a massive engineering project to create hundreds of artificial islands along its Persian Gulf coastline. Read more

Earth Perspectives

In 2008, as NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Earth Observatory asked a number of Earth scientists what we have learned about our home planet by going into space. Read more

When the Earth Moved Kashmir

Science and relief efforts come together in the aftermath of the Kashmir Earthquake. Read more

 

Devastating Drought Settles on the High Plains

A drought to rival the Dust Bowl settled over the southern Great Plains in summer 2008. Read more

 

Siberia Blog 2008

Scientists on a remote river in Siberia send field reports of their expedition to study the impacts of fire and climate change on northern forests and tundra. Read more

 

Cities at Night: The View from Space

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station capture nighttime photographs of city lights, spectacular evidence of humanity's existence, our distribution, and our ability to change our environment. Read more

Amazon Fires on the Rise

In 2006, fires and smoke in the Amazon declined significantly for the first time in nearly a decade. Is Amazon burning under control? Read more

 

Ancient Forest to Modern City

To understand how local weather shifted when the towering forests of the eastern United States gave way to fields and cities, scientists must reconstruct the region's historical landscapes. Read more

Coal Controversy In Appalachia

In Appalachia, coal operators are removing the tops of mountains and burying hundreds of miles of streams with rock waste as they mine coal seams hundreds of feet below the mountain top. Read more

Observing Volcanoes, Satellite Thinks for Itself

Satellite sensor technology automates volcanic observation, providing timely information about the eruption of Nyamuragira Volcano. Read more

 

Can Earth's Plants Keep up with Us?

Studying human appropriation of net primary productivity helps predict the planet's ability to sustain the human population. Read more

 

Satellite Monitors Rains that Trigger Landslides

Researchers are developing a landslide early-warning system that uses space-based measurements of rainfall combined with a global risk map based on terrain, landcover, and soils. Read more

Something Under the Ice is Moving

Satellites measurements of ice sheet elevation reveal a complex network of subglacial lakes in Antarctica. As water flows from lake to lake, the ice sheet above them rises and falls. Read more

Tropical Deforestation

Tropical forests are home to half the Earth's species, and their trees are an immense standing reservoir of carbon. Deforestation will have increasingly serious consequences for biodiversity, humans, and climate. Read more

Fire Alarms from Orbit

NASA satellites are playing a key role in an alert system that notifies the South African electric company when potential outage-causing fires come near the power lines. Read more

Remote River Reconnaissance

Elevation data collected from the space shuttle help map Earth's rivers in remote regions. Read more

 

Defining Desertification

A string of dry years shriveled vegetation in Africa's Sahel, causing some to fear that the Sahara Desert was shifting south. Satellite data spanning more than twenty years now shows that the Sahel is holding its own against the Sahara and may be recovering with the return of near-normal rainfall. Read more

Rise and Fall: Satellites Reveal Full Length of Tsunami-Generating Earthquake

Ambiguous seismic data and a spotty GPS network initially frustrated geologists mapping the length of the tsunami-generating earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004. Caltech grad student Aron Meltzner decided to improvise: he mapped the rupture using satellite images of coral reefs and coastlines that rose or sank during the quake. Read more

Beating the Heat in the World's Big Cities

Green roofs can mitigate urban heat islands and heat waves. Read more

 

 

Defying Dry: Amazon Greener in Dry Season than Wet

Defying Dry: Amazon Greener in Dry Season than Wet

Satellites reveal that the Amazon rainforest is greener during the dry season than during the wet season. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: Explaining the Evidence

Scientists' efforts to explain the paleoclimate evidence-not just the when and where of climate change, but the how and why-have produced some of the most significant theories of how the Earth's climate system works. Read more

 

Forest on the Threshold

NASA data reveal that Arctic forests are getting browner as temperatures rise. The downward trend in the forests' health may be a sign that global warming is impacting the forests sooner than scientists predicted. Read more

 

Lake Victoria's Falling Waters

By early 2006, the Jason-1 satellite showed that water levels on Africa's Lake Victoria had dropped to levels not seen in decades, leaving the millions who depend on the lake high and dry. Read more

 

Aiding Afghanistan

NASA satellite data help optimize agricultural output in Afghanistan. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: Climate Close-up

Both tree rings and similar rings in ocean coral can tell scientists about rainfall and temperatures during a single growing season. Read more

 

Mosaic of Antarctica

Researchers use MODIS images to show Antarctica like you've never seen it before. Read more

 

Looking for Lawns

Move over, corn. According to a satellite-based estimate, lawns constitute the largest area of irrigated crops in America. Read more

 

The Art of Science

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) have many tasks, but a consistent favorite is taking photographs of Earth. Read more

 

Blue Marble Next Generation

12 months of high-resolution global true color satellite imagery. Read more

 

Fire Emergency in Acre, Brazil

NASA-funded ecologists studying the Amazon Rainforest use satellite data to help fight out-of-control fires in Acre, Brazil. Read more

 

Operation Antarctica

When Program Managers of the U.S. Antarctic Program had to figure out how to get supplies to research camps in Antarctica, they turned to NASA sensors for information. Read more

 

Out of the Crevasse Field

NASA satellite data help the Antarctic Traverse Team avoid danger and beat a path to the South Pole. Read more

 

Time on the Shelf

Twenty-five years of NASA scientists' research in Antarctica and Greenland show that even huge ice sheets can change more quickly than scientists thought, causing sea level to rise. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology

Like detectives reconstructing a crime scene, paleoclimatologists scour the Earth for clues to understand the climates of the past and to learn how and why climate changes. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: Speleothems

Like detectives reconstructing a crime scene, paleoclimatologists scour the Earth for clues to understand the climates of the past and to learn how and why climate changes. Read more

 

Deep Freeze and Sea Breeze: Changing Land and Weather in Florida

A regional climate model and NASA satellite data say land cover change in south Florida has created both hotter, drier summers, and more severe freezes in the winter. Read more

High Water: Building a Global Flood Atlas

For more than a decade, geologist Bob Brakenridge has been pioneering the use of satellite data for monitoring floods. Read more

 

Stealing Rain from the Rainforest

In a rainforest, visible effects of drought can be subtle. An experiment that mimicked the impact of a severe El Nino in the Amazon revealed surprising signs of stress that could be seen from space. Read more

 

Terra Turns Five

In February 2000, NASA's Terra satellite began measuring Earth's vital signs with a combination of accuracy, precision, and resolution the world had never before seen. While the mission is still in the process of fulfilling its main science objectives, Terra's portfolio of achievements to date already marks the mission a resounding success. Read more

Collapse of the Kolka Glacier

Russian scientists mapped Mount Kazbek in the Caucasus Mountains, site of a massive glacial collapse, and used satellite data to assess the possibility of additional dangers. Read more

 

Mayan Mysteries

Satellite data help scientists understand Mesoamerica's past and point the way toward a brighter future. Read more

 

 

Sensing Remote Volcanoes

More than 1,500 potentially active volcanoes dot the Earths landscape, of which approximately 500 are active at any given time. Satellite technology now makes it possible to monitor volcanic activity in even the most isolated corners of the globe. Read more

 

Uncovering Chameleons

Using satellite data and museum specimen records, scientists predicted the location of 7 new chameleon species in Madagascar. Read more

 

Sizing Up the Earth's Glaciers

Visit the worlds high mountain ranges and youll probably see less ice and snow today than you would have a few decades ago. More than 110 glaciers have disappeared from Montanas Glacier National Park over the past 150 years. Read more

Flood Disaster Hits Hispaniola

In late May 2004, a tragic flood disaster hit the Caribbean island of Hispaniola, claiming the lives of more than 2,000 people. Much of the town of Jimani, Dominican Republic, was overrun by mud, gravel and debris swept off the Massif de la Salle by torrential rains. Across the border in Haiti, the village of Mapou now sits at the bottom of a newly formed lake. In a rapid response initiative, researchers used NASA satellite remote sensing data to assess what caused the disaster and to map the extent of the damage. Read more

From Forest to Field: How Fire is Transforming the Amazon

Current estimates of Amazon deforestation may capture less than half of the area degraded by logging and accidental fire. If the current trends continue, the entire Amazon frontier could be transformed into grass or scrubland. Read more

GRACE Fact Sheet

Launched in March 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment is a five-year mission intended to produce maps of the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision and resolution. Read more

 

LIDAR - In the Wake of the Storm

To understand how severe storms like Hurricane Isabel shape coastal areas, NASA and USGS scientists mapped the North Carolina coastline before and after Isabel came ashore. Their maps, made with an advanced lidar system that uses light to measure elevation, will help scientists understand how a new inlet formed on Hatteras Island. Read more

Denali's Fault

During the afternoon of November 3, 2002, the water in Seattle’s Lake Union suddenly began sloshing hard enough to knock houseboats off their moorings. Water in pools, ponds, and bayous as far away as Texas and Louisiana splashed for nearly half an hour. The cause? Alaska’s Denali Fault was on the move, jostling the state with a magnitude 7.9 earthquake. Read more

 

Watching the World Go By

Space Station Science Officer Ed Lu describes what it is like to look at the Earth over the course of an orbit. His descriptions are accompanied by digital photographs of Earth he has taken and transmitted to the ground during his mission. Read more

Just Add Water: a Modern Agricultural Revolution in the Fertile Crescent

Satellite observations in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent have documented a modern agricultural revolution. The dramatic changes in crop production in southern Turkey over the last decade are the result of new irrigation schemes that tap the historic Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Read more

Land Matters

Storm-related losses from the 1982-83 El Nino cost the state of California an estimated $2.2 billion. Fifteen years later, damages from the 1997-98 El Nino cost California only half that amount. Differences in storm intensity and duration accounted for some of the reduced costs, but other factors were also at work. Read more

The Great Bend of the Nile, Day and Night

Photographs from the Space Shuttle reveal the densley populated communities along the banks fo the Nile River. Read more

 

Squeezing Water from Rock

Survivors of the New Madrid earthquakes reported not only intense ground shaking and land movement, as would be expected during an earthquake, but also an unfamiliar phenomenon: water and sand spouting up through fissures, or cracks, in the Earth's surface Read more

Global Garden Gets Greener

Between 1982-1999, the climate grew warmer, wetter, and sunnier in many parts of the global greenhouse. For the most part, these changes were favorable for Earth's vegetation. Satellite observations of vegetation combined with nearly 20 years of climate data reveal that productivity of Earth's land-based vegetation increased by 6 percent during the time period. The greatest increase occurred in the tropics, where decreasing cloudiness made more sunlight available. Compared to the increase in human population, however, the small increase in productivity has not changed the Earth's habitability in any significant way. Read more

Escape from the Amazon

In this era of heightened concern about the relationship between the build up of atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate change, scientists are working to itemize all the ways carbon moves into and out of forest ecosystems. Perhaps nowhere on Earth do questions about the role of forests in the carbon cycle need answers more than in the Amazon Rainforest. Using satellite mapping and ground-based observations, scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide gas escaping from wetlands and flooded areas is a significant source of carbon emissions in the Amazon. Read more

How on Earth was this Image Made?

Remotely sensed Earth observations can include everything from sonar measurements used to map the topography of the ocean floor to satellite-based observations of city lights. Combining observations collected by a variety of instruments at different times and places allow scientists to create an otherwise impossible view of the Earth, showing underwater mountain ranges, cloud-free skies, and city lights that are brighter than daylight. Such visualizations are invaluable for interpreting complex data and communicating scientific concepts. Read more

From Space to the Outback

The 2002-03 fire season in Australia echoes the devastating 2001-02 season that climaxed in the bush on the outskirts of Sydney and drew international attention once again to the city that had hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. In the aftermath of that season, Australian scientists and government agencies developed a new fire monitoring system that uses observations from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on the Terra and Aqua satellites to identify fires in remote locations in Australia. The system provides a big-picture perspective of fires across the country and helps fire emergency agencies allocate resources to the areas where they are needed most. Read more

Flame & Flood

In the desert, fires can move fast; constant winds funnel through shallow dry creek beds to keep parched vegetation burning. A hot fire can make soil "hydrophobic," meaning that water runs off instead of soaking into the ground. Read more

The Human Footprint

In North America, the black-tailed prairie dog occupies as little as 5 percent of its former habitat. In Madagascar, more than 20 lemur species are threatened with extinction, and at least 15 species are already extinct. And on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, fewer than 50 mature mandrinette hibiscus plants remain in the wild. Read more

 

Life

Results for: Life

Notes from the Field Blog: Siberia 2012 - Embenchime River Expedition

A dedicated team of scientists has returned to the remote boreal forests of northern Siberia to study how the boreal ecosystem moderates Earth's climate by storing carbon and the implications of a warming climate on those forests. Read more

 

What are Phytoplankton?

Microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton are the base of the marine food web, and they play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the air. Read more

 

World of Change: Devastation and Recovery at Mt. St. Helens

The devastation of the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the gradual recovery of the surrounding landscape is documented in this series of satellite images from 1979—2011. Read more

World of Change: Drought Cycles in Australia

Drought has taken a severe toll on croplands in Southeast Australia during many years this decade. Read more

 

Perspectives: Why EOS Matters, 10 years later

Nearly a decade ago, ecologist Steve Running described how NASA’s Earth Observing System missions were going to help us answer this crucial question: Is the current human occupancy and activity of planet Earth sustainable? In 2009, he revisited the question, making the case that Earth-observing satellites are more important than ever as humanity begins to deal with a changing climate. Read more

 

Notes from the Field Blog: Journey to Galapagos

Following in Darwin's footsteps, NASA oceanographer Gene Feldman explores the remarkable Galapagos Islands. Read more

 

World of Change: Global Biosphere

Earth would not be the planet that it is without its biosphere, the sum of its life. This series of images illustrates the variations in the average productivity of the global biosphere from 1999 to 2008. Read more

 

Earth Perspectives

In 2008, as NASA celebrated its 50th anniversary, the Earth Observatory asked a number of Earth scientists what we have learned about our home planet by going into space. Read more

 

Devastating Drought Settles on the High Plains

A drought to rival the Dust Bowl settled over the southern Great Plains in summer 2008. Read more

 

 

Amazon Fires on the Rise

In 2006, fires and smoke in the Amazon declined significantly for the first time in nearly a decade. Is Amazon burning under control? Read more

 

Ancient Forest to Modern City

To understand how local weather shifted when the towering forests of the eastern United States gave way to fields and cities, scientists must reconstruct the region's historical landscapes. Read more

 

Buzzing about Climate Change

A Maryland beekeeper's annual records of honey production reveal that flowering trees are blooming nearly a month earlier than they did a few decades ago. Listen to the podcast by EarthSky. Read more

 

Greenland's Ice Island Alarm

Global warming is shrinking the Greenland Ice Sheet by at least 150 billion metric tons a year. Read more

 

The Amazon's Seasonal Secret

Satellite data detect previously unknown seasonal cycles in the leaf area of the Amazon Rainforest. Increasing leaf area during the sunny dry season may actually trigger the seasonal rains. Read more

 

Tropical Deforestation

Tropical forests are home to half the Earth's species, and their trees are an immense standing reservoir of carbon. Deforestation will have increasingly serious consequences for biodiversity, humans, and climate. Read more

 

Remote River Reconnaissance

Elevation data collected from the space shuttle help map Earth's rivers in remote regions. Read more

 

Beating the Heat in the World's Big Cities

Green roofs can mitigate urban heat islands and heat waves. Read more

 

 

Defying Dry: Amazon Greener in Dry Season than Wet

Satellites reveal that the Amazon rainforest is greener during the dry season than during the wet season. Read more

 

Winds Connect Snow to Sea

Explosive blooms of plant life in the Arabian Sea between 1997 and 2003 may be the result of a significant dip in snow cover thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia. Read more

 

Drought and Deluge Change Chesapeake Bay Biology

In September 2008, after years of population declines, NOAA declared the Chesapeake Bay’s crab fishery a federal disaster (press release). This article from 2005 describes how NASA scientists used satellite observations to study how heavy rain and drought affect the amount of pollution that enters the bay. Read more

The Rising Cost of Natural Hazards

Disaster-related economic losses topped $145 billion in 2004, the latest in a disturbing upward trend. Has climate change increased the number and severity of natural disasters, or is the rising cost of natural disasters due to other human factors? Read more

Stealing Rain from the Rainforest

In a rainforest, visible effects of drought can be subtle. An experiment that mimicked the impact of a severe El Nino in the Amazon revealed surprising signs of stress that could be seen from space. Read more

 
 

New Tools for Conservation

NASA's advances in remote sensing and other technologies give researchers and conservationists new unprecedented information for protecting wild areas. Read more

 

Uncovering Chameleons

Using satellite data and museum specimen records, scientists predicted the location of 7 new chameleon species in Madagascar. Read more

 

 

Humans and Climate Destroy Reef Ecosystem

Using fossilized coral reefs, Nerilie Abram constructed a 7,000-year climate history of cool/warm cycles in the Indian Ocean. In the course of her research she discovered that wildfires in Indonesia during the 1997-98 El Nino indirectly killed the Mentawai Reef. Read more

Life in Icy Waters

When you think of polynyas as a concentrated food source for larger organisms, then it becomes clear how important they are. Read more

 

 
 

Just Add Water: a Modern Agricultural Revolution in the Fertile Crescent

Satellite observations in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent have documented a modern agricultural revolution. The dramatic changes in crop production in southern Turkey over the last decade are the result of new irrigation schemes that tap the historic Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Read more

 

The Incredible Glowing Algae

The latest development in oceanographic remote sensing enables researchers to detect the glow, or phytoplankton fluorescence, from chlorophyll. Read more

 

Global Garden Gets Greener

Between 1982-1999, the climate grew warmer, wetter, and sunnier in many parts of the global greenhouse. For the most part, these changes were favorable for Earth's vegetation. Satellite observations of vegetation combined with nearly 20 years of climate data reveal that productivity of Earth's land-based vegetation increased by 6 percent during the time period. The greatest increase occurred in the tropics, where decreasing cloudiness made more sunlight available. Compared to the increase in human population, however, the small increase in productivity has not changed the Earth's habitability in any significant way. Read more

Escape from the Amazon

In this era of heightened concern about the relationship between the build up of atmospheric carbon dioxide and climate change, scientists are working to itemize all the ways carbon moves into and out of forest ecosystems. Perhaps nowhere on Earth do questions about the role of forests in the carbon cycle need answers more than in the Amazon Rainforest. Using satellite mapping and ground-based observations, scientists have discovered that carbon dioxide gas escaping from wetlands and flooded areas is a significant source of carbon emissions in the Amazon. Read more

From Space to the Outback

The 2002-03 fire season in Australia echoes the devastating 2001-02 season that climaxed in the bush on the outskirts of Sydney and drew international attention once again to the city that had hosted the 2000 Summer Olympics. In the aftermath of that season, Australian scientists and government agencies developed a new fire monitoring system that uses observations from NASA’s Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on the Terra and Aqua satellites to identify fires in remote locations in Australia. The system provides a big-picture perspective of fires across the country and helps fire emergency agencies allocate resources to the areas where they are needed most. Read more

Flame & Flood

In the desert, fires can move fast; constant winds funnel through shallow dry creek beds to keep parched vegetation burning. A hot fire can make soil "hydrophobic," meaning that water runs off instead of soaking into the ground. Read more

The Human Footprint

In North America, the black-tailed prairie dog occupies as little as 5 percent of its former habitat. In Madagascar, more than 20 lemur species are threatened with extinction, and at least 15 species are already extinct. And on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, fewer than 50 mature mandrinette hibiscus plants remain in the wild. Read more

Chemistry in the Sunlight

Ozone has proven to be among the most difficult air pollutants to control. To control ozone requires understanding its complex chemistry and how the chemical travels from one locality to another. Chemistry in the Sunlight explains basic aspects of ozone formation and provides a sample set of chemical reactions involved in ozone production. Read more

ICESat Factsheet

The ICESat mission will provide multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It will also provide topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Read more

 

Locust!

A little bit of overcrowding can transform a population of solitary desert locusts into a marauding mob with a voracious appetite. By tracking rainfall-induced changes in vegetation in the desert locust's habitat, scientists can help predict when conditions are becoming ripe for the formation of a plague. Read more

Rain Helps Carbon Sink

Forests and other vegetation in the U.S. consume about a quarter of the carbon dioxide gas the country produces each year. Over the past few decades the size of this “carbon sink” has been growing. NASA researchers now believe increased rain and snowfall are encouraging plant growth, which in turn are sequestering carbon dioxide. Read more

The Migrating Boreal Forest

Using plant fossils and ice cores, scientists have put together a history of the how the boreal forest has migrated since the last ice age. That history may help scientists trying to predict how the boreal forest of today might fare in a world much warmer than the one in which we now live. Read more

Fish Kill in the Gulf of Oman

When fish began dying in droves off the coast of Oman, local media reported it was due to contaminated ballast water from a U.S. tanker while authorities feared that a toxic algal bloom was to blame. Neither was true. Using data from NASA's Terra and SeaWinds missions, a team of scientists demonstrated the fish kill was due to a series of natural environmental changes. Read more

Showdown in the Rio Grande

ASTER satellite images have been used to find and track infestations of water hyacinths in the Rio Grande in Texas, as well as to monitor the success of plant eradication techniques. Read more

 

 

Hunting Dangerous Algae from Space

Although red tides have been reported in Florida since 1530, scientists are still struggling to understand their cause, to predict their occurrence, and to find a way to lessen their impact. Now, a group of scientists in Florida is using remote sensing data and offshore monitoring to find and track harmful algal blooms as they form and spread. Read more

 

NOAA-M Continues Polar-Orbiting Satellite Series

Since the 1960s, NASA has developed polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA-M, the latest NOAA spacecraft, was launched on June 24, 2002. Read more

 

Seeing Leaves in a New Light

An increase in plant growth can cool surface temperatures, give rise to more rain and cloud cover and lower the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. For many years biologists and Earth scientists have known of these interactions, but they have never been able to precisely measure and assess to what degree plants influence climate. Using a measurement known as Leaf Area Index, scientists have now found a way to quantify plant growth on a global scale with satellite imagery. Read more

 

Domes of Destruction

Imagery from the ASTER satellite instrument helps scientists monitor volcanic domes. Read more

 

Hantavirus Risk Maps

Satellite and ground truth data help scientists predict the risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Read more

 

 

 

Ultraviolet Radiation: How It Affects Life on Earth

Stratospheric ozone depletion due to human activities has resulted in an increase of ultraviolet radiation on the Earth's surface. The article describes some effects on human health, aquatic ecosystems, agricultural plants and other living things, and explains how much ultraviolet radiation we are currently getting and how we measure it. Read more

Life on the Brink

Data demonstrate that populations cluster--in increasingly greater numbers--near active volcanoes. Scientists theorize that while attractions offset perceived risks, such willingness to chance eruptions increases the potential for disaster. Read more

 

Watching Plants Dance to the Rhythms of the Ocean

NASA scientists developed a new data set that enables them to observe the teleconnections between sea surface temperature anomalies and patterns of plant growth on a global scale. Read more

When the Dust Settles

African dust can both benefit and harm Caribbean coral reefs. Read more

 

 

Amazing Atolls of the Maldives

Though scientists have been studying atolls at least since the mid-1800s, many mysteries remain about exactly how they form and what factors determine their shape. Using satellite imagery collected by Landsat 7, scientists are attempting to discern if monsoons played a role in shaping the Maldives. Read more

Mapping the Decline of Coral Reefs

Coral reefs represent some of the densest and most varied ecosystems on Earth. Over the past 50 years the health of these reefs have been declining. Using high-resolution satellite imagery, scientists are locating the reefs that are in the most trouble. Read more

Where Frogs Live

Researchers use remote sensing to monitor amphibian health. Read more

 

 

Precision Farming

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, NASA, and NOAA are among key agencies contributing to precision farming revolution. The goal is to improve farmers' profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals. Read more

New Tools for Diplomacy

Remote sensing technology, increasingly crucial to the understanding of Earth's climate and environmental processes, now permits the monitoring of global environmental conditions and the gathering of data that were historically unavailable. Read more

Reaping What We Sow: Mapping the Urbanization of Farmland Using Satellites and City Lights

Tracking urbanization, the conversion of rural landscape to urban habitat, has always been difficult due to the speed at which it progresses. Recently, NASA scientists came across a solution. Using satellite images of city lights at night, they constructed a map of urbanized areas and integrated this map with a soil map prepared by the United Nations. These maps indicate that urban centers may be destroying their best soils and putting future generations at risk. Read more

Adapting to Climate Change

Teams of scientists and resource planners assess their region’s most critical vulnerabilities in the United States National Assessment on the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. The report covers agricultural productivity, coastal areas, water resources, forests, and human health. Read more

 

Oceans

Results for: Oceans

 

IceBridge: Building a Record of Earth’s Changing Ice, One Flight at a Time

NASA is sending a fleet of airplanes to the ends of the Earth for the next several years to figure out how and why polar ice is changing. Read more

 

As the Seasons Change, Will the Plankton?

To understand the planet’s biggest food source—phytoplankton—and perhaps its most important sink for carbon dioxide, you’ve got to get out on the water. Read more

 

The Water Cycle

Landscape sculptor. Climate driver. Life supporter. Water is the most important molecule on our planet. Read more

 

Gulf of Mexico Oil Slick Images: Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ explains why oil is more obvious in some satellite images than others and why the Earth Observatory doesn't post new images of the oil slick every day. Read more

What are Phytoplankton?

Microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton are the base of the marine food web, and they play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the air. Read more

 

World of Change: Collapse of the Larsen-B Ice Shelf

In early 2002, scientists monitoring daily satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula watched in amazement as almost the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered and collapsed in just over one month. They had never witnessed such a large area disintegrate so rapidly. Read more

World of Change: El Niño, La Niña, and Rainfall

For many people, El Niño and La Niña mean floods or drought, but the events are actually a warming or cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean that impacts rainfall. These sea surface temperature and rainfall anomaly images show the direct correlation between ocean temperatures and rainfall during El Niño and La Niña events. Read more

 
World of Change: Global Biosphere

World of Change: Global Biosphere

Earth would not be the planet that it is without its biosphere, the sum of its life. This series of images illustrates the variations in the average productivity of the global biosphere from 1999 to 2008. Read more

 

World of Change: Antarctic Sea Ice

Because of differences in geography and climate, Antarctica sea ice extent is larger than the Arctic’s in winter and smaller in summer. Since 1979, Antarctica’s sea ice has increased slightly, but year-to-year fluctuations are large. Read more

 

World of Change: Arctic Sea Ice

NASA satellites have monitored Arctic sea ice since 1978. Starting in 2002, they observed a sharp decline in sea ice extent. Read more

 

Sea Ice

Polar sea ice grows and shrinks dramatically each year, driven by seasonal cycles. Habitat for wildlife and harbinger of changing climate, sea ice offers scientists important clues about the state of our planet. Read more

An Ocean Breeze: Mapping Brazil’s Offshore Wind Power Potential

Searching for alternative sources of energy for his country, one student turned to a NASA satellite to assess the feasibility of offshore wind power in Southeast Brazil. Read more

Correcting Ocean Cooling

Scientists revise their conclusion that the ocean has cooled since 2003. Read more

 

Rapid Retreat: Ice Shelf Loss along Canada's Ellesmere Coast

Beginning in late July 2008, the remaining ice shelves along the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island underwent rapid retreat, losing a total of 214 square kilometers (83 square miles). Read more

The Ocean's Carbon Balance

The amount of carbon dioxide that the ocean can take from the atmosphere is controlled by both natural cycles and human activity. Read more

 

Disintegration: Antarctic Warming Claims Another Ice Shelf

In late February 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated, an indication of warming temperatures in the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites provided some of the earliest evidence of the disintegration. Read more

Something Under the Ice is Moving

Satellites measurements of ice sheet elevation reveal a complex network of subglacial lakes in Antarctica. As water flows from lake to lake, the ice sheet above them rises and falls. Read more

Remote River Reconnaissance

Elevation data collected from the space shuttle help map Earth's rivers in remote regions. Read more

 

Arctic Reflection: Clouds Replace Snow and Ice as Solar Reflector

Using satellite observations of sea ice and clouds, scientists discover that Earth’s poles are still effective reflectors for incoming sunlight. Read more

Hurricanes: The Greatest Storms on Earth

Few things in nature can compare to the destructive force of a hurricane. Called the greatest storm on Earth, a hurricane is capable of annihilating coastal areas with sustained winds of 155 mph or higher and intense areas of rainfall and a storm surge. In fact, during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs! Read more

Rise and Fall: Satellites Reveal Full Length of Tsunami-Generating Earthquake

Ambiguous seismic data and a spotty GPS network initially frustrated geologists mapping the length of the tsunami-generating earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004. Caltech grad student Aron Meltzner decided to improvise: he mapped the rupture using satellite images of coral reefs and coastlines that rose or sank during the quake. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: Explaining the Evidence

Scientists' efforts to explain the paleoclimate evidence-not just the when and where of climate change, but the how and why-have produced some of the most significant theories of how the Earth's climate system works. Read more

 
 

Ancient Crystals Suggest Earlier Ocean

Tiny, ancient mineral crystals from the arid shrublands of Western Australia suggest Earth's oceans developed far earlier than scientists used to think. Read more

 

Winds Connect Snow to Sea

Explosive blooms of plant life in the Arabian Sea between 1997 and 2003 may be the result of a significant dip in snow cover thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia. Read more

Paleoclimatology: Climate Close-up

Both tree rings and similar rings in ocean coral can tell scientists about rainfall and temperatures during a single growing season. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: The Ice Core Record

For six weeks every summer between 1989 and 1993, Alley and other scientists pushed columns of ice along the science assembly line, labeling and analyzing the snow for information about past climate Read more

 

Drought and Deluge Change Chesapeake Bay Biology

In September 2008, after years of population declines, NOAA declared the Chesapeake Bay’s crab fishery a federal disaster (press release). This article from 2005 describes how NASA scientists used satellite observations to study how heavy rain and drought affect the amount of pollution that enters the bay. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: A Record from the Deep

Containing fossilized microscopic plants and animals and bits of dust swept from the continents, the layers of sludge on the ocean floor provide information for scientists trying to piece together the climates of the past. Read more

Operation Antarctica

When Program Managers of the U.S. Antarctic Program had to figure out how to get supplies to research camps in Antarctica, they turned to NASA sensors for information. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: The Oxygen Balance

Oxygen is one of the most significant keys to deciphering past climates. Read more

 

Cheyenne and Catarina: Breaking Records for Sailing and Storms

When the crew of the Cheyenne set out to break the round-the-world sailing record in March 2004, they would never have guessed what an unusual storm they would meet along the way. Read more

High Water: Building a Global Flood Atlas

For more than a decade, geologist Bob Brakenridge has been pioneering the use of satellite data for monitoring floods. Read more

 

Humans and Climate Destroy Reef Ecosystem

Using fossilized coral reefs, Nerilie Abram constructed a 7,000-year climate history of cool/warm cycles in the Indian Ocean. In the course of her research she discovered that wildfires in Indonesia during the 1997-98 El Nino indirectly killed the Mentawai Reef. Read more

Life in Icy Waters

When you think of polynyas as a concentrated food source for larger organisms, then it becomes clear how important they are. Read more

 

Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf

In the summer of 2002, graduate student Derek Mueller made an unwelcome discovery: the biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart Read more

 

Weighing Earth's Water from Space

Launched in 2002, a pair of identical satellites that make up NASA's Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) are tackling the problem in an unexpected way: they are weighing Earth's fresh water from space. Serving as a sort of "divining rod" in space that moves in response to a powerful, fundamental force of nature--gravity--the satellites respond to changes in Earth's gravitation field that signal shifts in the movement of water a cross and under Earth's surface. Read more

Drought Lowers Lake Mead

In the space of just three years, water levels in Lake Mead have fallen more than sixty feet due to sustained drought. Landsat images show the extent of the change to the lake's shoreline. Read more

 

Dwindling Arctic Ice

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has been melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. NASA researcher Josefino Comiso points to an accelerating warming trend as a primary cause and discusses how global climate change may be influencing the shrinking Arctic ice cap. Read more

Watching the World Go By

Space Station Science Officer Ed Lu describes what it is like to look at the Earth over the course of an orbit. His descriptions are accompanied by digital photographs of Earth he has taken and transmitted to the ground during his mission. Read more

Little Islands, Big Wake

The Hawaiian Islands interrupt the trade winds that blow across the Pacific Ocean, with far-reaching effects on ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. Read more

 

Double Vision

For the first time, scientists can rely on not one, but two satellites to monitor ocean surface topography, or sea level. TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, launched nearly 10 years apart, are now engaged in a tandem mission, creating a spaceborne ocean observatory that provides scientists, climate modelers, and forecasters with nearly global coverage of the world's ocean surface at an unprecedented level of precision. Read more

The Incredible Glowing Algae

The latest development in oceanographic remote sensing enables researchers to detect the glow, or phytoplankton fluorescence, from chlorophyll. Read more

 

Searching for Atlantic Rhythms?

All over the globe there are relationships between the conditions of the atmosphere and oceans that affect weather and climate at great distances. The North Atlantic Oscillation is one of these teleconnections, linking the temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean with winter weather in North America and Europe. Read more

A Delicate Balance: Signs of Change in the Tropics

While NASA climate scientists were reviewing radiation data emanating from the tropics simply to test existing notions, they uncovered a phenomenon no one expected. They found that progressively more thermal radiation has been escaping the atmosphere above the tropics and progressively less sunlight has been reflecting off of the clouds. Read more

Vanishing Ice

Konrad Steffen arrived on the Greenland Ice Sheet for the 2002 fieldwork season and immediately observed that something significant was happening in the Arctic. Pools of water already spotted the ice sur face, and melting was occurring where it never had before. Read more

Teaching Old Data New Tricks

Researchers have discovered that scatterometer data could provide important information on a variety of other surfaces, such as forests and ice, which became the basis for global climate change study applications. Read more

 

Fish Kill in the Gulf of Oman

When fish began dying in droves off the coast of Oman, local media reported it was due to contaminated ballast water from a U.S. tanker while authorities feared that a toxic algal bloom was to blame. Neither was true. Using data from NASA's Terra and SeaWinds missions, a team of scientists demonstrated the fish kill was due to a series of natural environmental changes. Read more

Space-based Ice Sight

Data from recent NASA satellite missions offer scientists new views of Antarctica, and new opportunities to understand how its enormous ice sheet might respond to future climate change. Read more

 

Hunting Dangerous Algae from Space

Although red tides have been reported in Florida since 1530, scientists are still struggling to understand their cause, to predict their occurrence, and to find a way to lessen their impact. Now, a group of scientists in Florida is using remote sensing data and offshore monitoring to find and track harmful algal blooms as they form and spread. Read more

Fragment of its Former Shelf

Scientists investigate the 2002 Larsen Ice Shelf breakup with the help of MODIS imagery. Read more

 

Hurricane Field Studies

The Third Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX3) has provided forecasters with a more realistic storm picture. Read more

 

Clouds in the Balance

In 1998, atmospheric scientists discovered a significant change in cloud vertical structure triggered by the strongest El Niño on record. Read more

 

Measure for Measure

Governments and policy makers turn to science to better understand the impacts of global sea level rise on coastal cities. Read more

 

 

Reverberations of the Pacific Warm Pool

Over the past several decades, scientists have uncovered a number of El Nino-like climate anomalies across the globe. One of the most recent to be discovered takes place in the Indo-Pacific warm pool. This body of water, which spans the western waters of the equatorial Pacific to the eastern Indian Ocean, holds the warmest seawaters in the world. Over a period of roughly two decades, the warm pool's average annual temperatures increase and then decrease like a beacon. These oscillations may affect the climate in regions as far away as the southern United States and may be powerful enough to broaden the extent of El Nino. Read more

In the Eyewall of the Storm

Scientists have sought a greater understanding of the hurricane intensification process to improve forecasting techniques and decrease the radius of coastal evacuations. A new study using CAMEX-3 hurricane data reveals the role of "hot towers" in increasing a storm's fury. Read more

 
 

Ice

Results for: Snow and Ice

 

World of Change: Columbia Glacier, Alaska

Since 1980, the volume of this glacier that spills into the Prince William Sound has shrunk by half. Climate change may have nudged the process along, but mechanical forces have played the largest role in the ice loss. Read more

 

IceBridge: Building a Record of Earth’s Changing Ice, One Flight at a Time

NASA is sending a fleet of airplanes to the ends of the Earth for the next several years to figure out how and why polar ice is changing. Read more

 

Notes from the Field Blog: SEAT: Satellite Era Accumulation Traverse

An international team returns to West Antarctica for a second season of field work. Researchers are collecting data from snow pits, ice cores, and radar surveys to better understand snow accumulation and to improve space-based estimates of Antarctica's ice mass. Read more

 

Notes from the Field Blog: Real-time Observations of Greenland’s Under-ice Environment (ROGUE)

During the spring of 2011, the ROGUE project is examining the nature and cause of short-term ice velocity changes near Swiss Camp, Greenland by observing interactions between the ice sheet, the atmosphere and the bed. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: MABEL, Spring 2011

Flying on a high-altitude aircraft on the brink of space, the MABEL instrument is helping scientists to simulate measurements from NASA's next ice-observing satellite, ICESat-2. Read more

 

Notes from the Field Blog: Operation IceBridge: Arctic 2011

NASA's Operation IceBridge mission, now flying its third annual campaign over the Arctic, is helping scientists to keep watch over polar ice sheets, glaciers and sea ice. Read more

World of Change: Collapse of the Larsen-B Ice Shelf

In early 2002, scientists monitoring daily satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula watched in amazement as almost the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered and collapsed in just over one month. They had never witnessed such a large area disintegrate so rapidly. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: The Uphill Road to Measuring Snow

Not your typical weekend ski trip: scientists turn Colorado's Steamboat Mountain into an outdoor lab for tests that will improve satellite estimates of snow. Read more

World of Change: Antarctic Sea Ice

Because of differences in geography and climate, Antarctica sea ice extent is larger than the Arctic’s in winter and smaller in summer. Since 1979, Antarctica’s sea ice has increased slightly, but year-to-year fluctuations are large. Read more

 

World of Change: Arctic Sea Ice

NASA satellites have monitored Arctic sea ice since 1978. Starting in 2002, they observed a sharp decline in sea ice extent. Read more

 

Sea Ice

Polar sea ice grows and shrinks dramatically each year, driven by seasonal cycles. Habitat for wildlife and harbinger of changing climate, sea ice offers scientists important clues about the state of our planet. Read more

 

Winter Camp: A Blog from the Greenland Summit

Lora Koenig, a remote-sensing glaciologist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center, spent three dark, frigid months supporting research at the National Science Foundation’s Greenland Summit Camp. Near the end of her stay, Koenig emailed the Earth Observatory answers to a few questions about how she wound up in Greenland and what is was like to spend the winter there. Read more

 

Rapid Retreat: Ice Shelf Loss along Canada's Ellesmere Coast

Beginning in late July 2008, the remaining ice shelves along the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island underwent rapid retreat, losing a total of 214 square kilometers (83 square miles). Read more

Disintegration: Antarctic Warming Claims Another Ice Shelf

In late February 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated, an indication of warming temperatures in the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites provided some of the earliest evidence of the disintegration. Read more

Greenland's Ice Island Alarm

Global warming is shrinking the Greenland Ice Sheet by at least 150 billion metric tons a year. Read more

 

Something Under the Ice is Moving

Satellites measurements of ice sheet elevation reveal a complex network of subglacial lakes in Antarctica. As water flows from lake to lake, the ice sheet above them rises and falls. Read more

 
Winds Connect Snow to Sea

Winds Connect Snow to Sea

Explosive blooms of plant life in the Arabian Sea between 1997 and 2003 may be the result of a significant dip in snow cover thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: The Ice Core Record

For six weeks every summer between 1989 and 1993, Alley and other scientists pushed columns of ice along the science assembly line, labeling and analyzing the snow for information about past climate Read more

 

Mosaic of Antarctica

Researchers use MODIS images to show Antarctica like you've never seen it before. Read more

 

 

Operation Antarctica

When Program Managers of the U.S. Antarctic Program had to figure out how to get supplies to research camps in Antarctica, they turned to NASA sensors for information. Read more

Out of the Crevasse Field

NASA satellite data help the Antarctic Traverse Team avoid danger and beat a path to the South Pole. Read more

 

Time on the Shelf

Twenty-five years of NASA scientists' research in Antarctica and Greenland show that even huge ice sheets can change more quickly than scientists thought, causing sea level to rise. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology

Like detectives reconstructing a crime scene, paleoclimatologists scour the Earth for clues to understand the climates of the past and to learn how and why climate changes. Read more

 

Paleoclimatology: Speleothems

Like detectives reconstructing a crime scene, paleoclimatologists scour the Earth for clues to understand the climates of the past and to learn how and why climate changes. Read more

 

 

Collapse of the Kolka Glacier

Russian scientists mapped Mount Kazbek in the Caucasus Mountains, site of a massive glacial collapse, and used satellite data to assess the possibility of additional dangers. Read more

 

Sizing Up the Earth's Glaciers

Visit the worlds high mountain ranges and youll probably see less ice and snow today than you would have a few decades ago. More than 110 glaciers have disappeared from Montanas Glacier National Park over the past 150 years. Read more

GRACE Fact Sheet

Launched in March 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment is a five-year mission intended to produce maps of the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision and resolution. Read more

Life in Icy Waters

When you think of polynyas as a concentrated food source for larger organisms, then it becomes clear how important they are. Read more

 

Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf

In the summer of 2002, graduate student Derek Mueller made an unwelcome discovery: the biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart Read more

 

Dwindling Arctic Ice

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has been melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. NASA researcher Josefino Comiso points to an accelerating warming trend as a primary cause and discusses how global climate change may be influencing the shrinking Arctic ice cap. Read more

Vanishing Ice

Konrad Steffen arrived on the Greenland Ice Sheet for the 2002 fieldwork season and immediately observed that something significant was happening in the Arctic. Pools of water already spotted the ice sur face, and melting was occurring where it never had before. Read more

ICESat Factsheet

The ICESat mission will provide multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It will also provide topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Read more

Space-based Ice Sight

Space-based Ice Sight

Data from recent NASA satellite missions offer scientists new views of Antarctica, and new opportunities to understand how its enormous ice sheet might respond to future climate change. Read more

 

Fragment of its Former Shelf

Scientists investigate the 2002 Larsen Ice Shelf breakup with the help of MODIS imagery. Read more

 

 

Snow Sleuths

Scientists use ground-based measurements to learn how snow looks from space. Read more

 

New Light on Ice Motion

MODIS' unprecedented high resolution reveals clues to Antarctic topography and ice history. Read more

 

Frozen Soils and the Climate System

While scientists have learned to interpret receding glaciers as well as changing trends in snow cover, sea ice extent, and sea level as "indicators" of climate change, they are still working to better understand the role that frozen soils play within the Earth's climate system. Read more

Disintegration of the Ninnis Glacier Tongue

Many processes that shape the Earth's landscape happen too slowly to be witnessed in a human lifetime. But analysis of satellite imagery shows that the large glacier tongue of the Ninnis Glacier on the coast of East Antarctica has disintegrated, changing the shape of the coastline almost overnight. Read more

Ice and Sky

The availability of the Canadian RADARSAT Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and new algorithms allow the detection of open water in polar ice from space. Read more

 

Polynyas, CO2, and Diatoms in the Southern Ocean

Climate models predict a dramatic shift in phytoplankton communities that live in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean. Read more

 

Climate Clues in the Ice

Newly available upward-looking sonar shows significant decreases in sea ice thickness in recent decades. Read more

 

RAMPing Up

International teamwork yields a high-resolution map of Antarctica. Read more

 

 

Fire and Ice

The eruption of Mt. Pinatubo led to new techniques for detecting short-term climate variation. Read more

 

On Thin Ice

Satellite data fill the gaps in shore-based ice observations. Read more

 

 

Snow and Ice Extent

In December 1998, field support crews had to find a way to locate regions of sea ice dense enough to allow the U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star to dock. Read more

 

Polar Paradox

Global warming could lead to another ice age. Read more

 

 

Upper Crust

Krill fight for survival as sea ice melts. Read more

 

 

Melt-down

The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing ground. Read more

 

 

Visions of a Cloudy Continent

A combination of cloud-free satellite imagery and digital elevation data has revealed the face of Antarctica. Read more

 

 

 

Facts

Results for: Fact Sheets

 

Global Warming

Global warming is happening now, and scientists are confident that greenhouse gases are responsible. To understand what this means for humanity, it is necessary to understand what global warming is, how scientists know it's happening, and how they predict future climate. Read more

Sea Ice

Polar sea ice grows and shrinks dramatically each year, driven by seasonal cycles. Habitat for wildlife and harbinger of changing climate, sea ice offers scientists important clues about the state of our planet. Read more

 

Climate and Earth’s Energy Budget

Earth’s temperature depends on how much sunlight the land, oceans, and atmosphere absorb, and how much heat the planet radiates back to space. This fact sheet describes the net flow of energy through different parts of the Earth system, and explains how the planetary energy budget stays in balance. Read more

Tropical Deforestation

Tropical forests are home to half the Earth's species, and their trees are an immense standing reservoir of carbon. Deforestation will have increasingly serious consequences for biodiversity, humans, and climate. Read more

 

Hurricanes: The Greatest Storms on Earth

Few things in nature can compare to the destructive force of a hurricane. Called the greatest storm on Earth, a hurricane is capable of annihilating coastal areas with sustained winds of 155 mph or higher and intense areas of rainfall and a storm surge. In fact, during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs! Read more

 

Aura: A Mission Dedicated to the Health of Earth's Atmosphere

On July 15, 2004 at 3:02 a.m., NASA launched the Aura satellite, the third flagship in a series of Earth-observing satellites designed to view Earth as a whole system, observe the net results of complex interactions within the climate system, and understand how the planet is changing in response to natural and human influences. Read more

GRACE Fact Sheet

Launched in March 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment is a five-year mission intended to produce maps of the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision and resolution. Read more

 

Watching our Ozone Weather

Until about 30 years ago, atmospheric scientists believed that all of the ozone in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) intruded from the upper atmosphere (stratosphere), where it formed by the action of sunlight on oxygen molecules. Read more

Chemistry in the Sunlight

Ozone has proven to be among the most difficult air pollutants to control. To control ozone requires understanding its complex chemistry and how the chemical travels from one locality to another. Chemistry in the Sunlight explains basic aspects of ozone formation and provides a sample set of chemical reactions involved in ozone production. Read more

Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) Fact Sheet

Earth scientists will move a step closer to a full understanding of the Sun's energy output with the launch of the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite. SORCE will be equipped with four instruments now being built at the University of Colorado that will measure variations in solar radiation much more accurately than anything now in use and observe some of the spectral properties of solar radiation for the first time. With data from NASA's SORCE mission, researchers should be able to follow how the Sun affects our climate now and in the future. (Original 2001-11-30; updated 2003-01-21) Read more

ICESat Factsheet

The ICESat mission will provide multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It will also provide topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Read more

CALIPSO: A Global Perspective of Clouds and Aerosols from Space

The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite mission helps scientists answer significant questions about climatic processes by providing new information on clouds and aerosols. Read more

Human Spaceflight Factsheet

Astronaut photography of Earth from the first space flights in the 1960s formed the foundation for the remote sensing technologies that followed. Read more

 

Aqua

Aqua carries six state-of-the-art instruments to observe the Earth's oceans, atmosphere, land, ice and snow covers, and vegetation, providing high measurement accuracy, spatial detail, and temporal frequency. This comprehensive approach enables scientists to study interactions among the many elements of the Earth system. Read more

NOAA-M Continues Polar-Orbiting Satellite Series

Since the 1960s, NASA has developed polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA-M, the latest NOAA spacecraft, was launched on June 24, 2002. Read more

The Ozone We Breathe

Ozone in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is toxic to human beings and many species of plants, causing harm without visible symptoms. The Ozone We Breathe focuses chiefly on the ozone's effects on human respiratory health and and the productivity of agricultural crops. Read more

Highways of a Global Traveler - Tracking Tropospheric Ozone

Ozone in the lower atmosphere (troposphere) is toxic to human beings and to many other living things that breathe it. After combining satellite observations with data-rich models that simulate the atmosphere’s chemistry and dynamics, scientists are finding tropospheric ozone in some unexpected places. Tropospheric ozone turns out to be an intercontinental traveler, crossing geographic and political boundaries. Read more

Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III

The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III) is a fourth-generation satellite instrument for observing the long-term health of the upper atmosphere, including the amounts of ozone, aerosols (suspended particles), and water vapor. Read more

Weather Forecasting Through the Ages

Only fifty years ago, weather forecasting was an art, derived from the inspired interpretation of data from a loose array of land-based observing stations, balloons, and aircraft. Since then it has evolved substantially, based on an array of satellite and other observations and sophisticated computer models simulating the atmosphere and sometimes additional elements of the Earth's climate system. The AIRS/AMSU/HSB combination on board the [soon to be launched] EOS Aqua satellite should further these advances, enabling more accurate predictions over longer periods. Read more

Research Satellites for Atmospheric Science, 1978-Present

NASA and its affiliated agencies and research institutions developed a series of research satellites that have enabled scientists to test new remote sensing technologies that have advanced scientific understanding of both chemical and physical changes in the atmosphere. Read more

Ultraviolet Radiation: How It Affects Life on Earth

Stratospheric ozone depletion due to human activities has resulted in an increase of ultraviolet radiation on the Earth's surface. The article describes some effects on human health, aquatic ecosystems, agricultural plants and other living things, and explains how much ultraviolet radiation we are currently getting and how we measure it. Read more

Biomass Burning

Biomass burning is the burning of living and dead vegetation, including both human-initiated burning for land clearing, and burning induced by lightning and other natural sources. Researchers with the Biomass Burning Project at NASA Langley Research Center are seeking to understand the impact that biomass burning has on the Earth's atmosphere and climate. Read more

Earth Observing 1 (EO-1)

In 2000, NASA launched Earth Observing-1 (EO-1). While flying at an altitude of 705-kilometers, EO-1's primary focus is to test advanced instruments, spacecraft systems, and mission concepts in flight. EO-1 will also return scientific data which is used in comparison with other satellite data to ensure the continuity of land-imaging data. Read more

Measuring Vegetation (NDVI & EVI)

In an effort to monitor major fluctuations in vegetation and understand how they affect the environment scientist use satellite remote sensors to measure and map the density of green vegetation over the Earth. By carefully measuring the wavelengths and intensity of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the land surface back up into space, scientists use an algorithm called a “Vegetation Index” to quantify the concentrations of green leaf vegetation around the globe. Read more

Drought: The Creeping Disaster

Though it is a gradual disaster, drought can have devastating effects on agriculture and water supplies, but monitoring and forecasts can allow people to take early actions that prevent harsh impacts later. Read more

 

Watching the Sun

The Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor III will monitor the sun's total radiation output so scientists can better predict the sun's effect on global climate change. Read more

 

Space-based Observations of the Earth

With increasingly sophisticated satellite remote sensors, we can measure a wide range of geophysical parameters (such as surface temperature, distribution of clouds and aerosol particles, the abundance of trace gases in the atmosphere, or the distribution and types of life on land and in the ocean) with unprecedented accuracy and resolution. Read more

Sunspots and the Solar Max

This fact sheet describes solar phenomenon such as sunspots and the solar wind. Read more

 

ACRIMSAT

By measuring the total amount of energy that the sun delivers to the Earth with ACRIMSAT, scientists will be able to build better scientific models of the Earth’s climate system, providing a vital piece of the global climate change puzzle. Read more

Global Fire Monitoring

Forest fires, brush fires, and slash and burn agriculture—types of biomass burning—are a significant force for environmental change. Fires may play an important role in climate change, emitting both greenhouse gases and smoke particles into the atmosphere. Read more

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is the science and art of identifying, observing, and measuring an object without coming into direct contact with it. This involves the detection and measurement of radiation of different wavelengths reflected or emitted from distant objects or materials, by which they may be identified and categorized. Read more

Ozone

A relatively unstable molecule that represents a tiny fraction of the atmosphere, ozone is crucial for life on Earth. Depending on where ozone resides, it can protect or harm life. Read more

 

QuikSCAT

QuikSCAT provides climatologists, meteorologists and oceanographers with daily, detailed snapshots of the winds swirling above the world’s oceans. Read more

 

Land Cover Classification

For years scientists across the world have been mapping changes in the landscape (forest to field, grassland to desert, ice to rock) to prevent future disasters, monitor natural resources, and collect information on the environment. While land cover can be observed on the ground or by airplane, the most efficient way to map it is from space. Read more

Landsat 7 Fact Sheet

The latest mission in the Landsat series—Landsat 7—continues the flow of global change information to users worldwide. Scientists use Landsat satellites to gather remotely sensed images of the land surface and surrounding coastal regions for global change research, regional environmental change studies and other civil and commercial purposes. Read more

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), is the first mission dedicated to measuring tropical and subtropical rainfall through microwave and visible infrared sensors, and includes the first spaceborne rain radar. Read more

Changing Global Cloudiness

Clouds are one of the most obvious and influential features of Earth’s climate system. They are also one of its most variable components. The natural diversity and variability of clouds has intrigued and challenged researchers for centuries. Read more

Changing Global Land Surface

Satellite remote sensing enables researchers to consistently monitor distribution and seasonal changes of the world’s vegetation and the exchanges of water and carbon between land vegetation and the atmosphere. These observations will help us understand the rate of change of atmospheric carbon dioxide and its effect on climate. Read more

What is El Nino? Fact Sheet

During an El Niño, the relationships between winds and ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean change, with an impact on weather conditions around the world. Read more

 

La Niña Fact Sheet

The phenomenon known as El Niño is sometimes reverses, leading to strong trade winds, colder than normal water off the coast of Peru, and warmer than normal water near Australia. This cold counterpart to El Niño is known as La Niña. Read more

Ocean and Climate Fact Sheet

The Earth’s ocean and atmosphere are locked in an embrace. As one changes, so does the other. Read more

 

What is a Coccolithophore? Fact Sheet

Coccolithophores are one-celled marine plants that surround themselves with a microscopic plating made of limestone (calcite). Read more

 

Polar Ice Fact Sheet

Polar ice consists of sea ice, ice sheets, and glaciers. Extending over vast areas of the polar regions, this ice provides some early clues about climate change. Read more

 

Terra Spacecraft Fact Sheet

On December 18, 1999, NASA launched a new flagship, the Terra satellite, to begin collecting a new 18-year global data set on which to base future scientific investigations about our complex home planet. Read more

 

Clouds & Radiation Fact Sheet

The study of clouds, where they occur, and their characteristics, plays a key role in the understanding of climate change. Low, thick clouds reflect solar radiation and cool the Earth's surface. High, thin clouds transmit incoming solar radiation and also trap some of the outgoing infrared radiation emitted by the Earth, warming the surface. Read more

Humans

Results for: Human Presence

 

Seeing Forests for the Trees and the Carbon: Mapping the World’s Forests in Three Dimensions

Earth has a carbon problem, and some think trees are the answer. Would it help to plant more? To cut down fewer? Does it matter where? Scientists are working to get a better inventory of the carbon stored in trees. Read more

World of Change: Athabasca Oil Sands

The Athabasca Oil Sands are at once a source of oil, of economic growth, and of environmental concern. This series of images shows the growth of surface mines around the Athabasca River from 1984 to the present. Read more

 

World of Change: Seasons of the Indus River

Fed by glaciers in the Himalayas and Karakorams — and by monsoon rains — the Indus River experiences substantial fluctuations every year. Because the river irrigates 18 million hectares of farmland, the landscape changes along with the river. Read more

 

Every Flight is a Mission to Planet Earth

Observing Earth from space is one of the NASA’s longest-standing science experiments. This photo essay pays homage to the unique view of Earth that the space shuttle has delivered for 30 years. Read more

 

We Can See Clearly Now: ISS Window Observational Research Facility

New optical gear on the International Space Station is giving students and earth scientists a better view of our world. Read more

 

Climate Q&A

From why global warming is a problem to whether increased solar activity could be behind it, this Q&A includes responses to common questions about climate change and global warming. Read more

 

World of Change: Mountaintop Mining, West Virginia

Based on data from NASA’s Landsat 5 satellite, these natural-color (photo-like) images document the growth of the Hobet mine in Boone County, West Virginia, as it expands from ridge to ridge between 1984 to 2010. Read more

World of Change: Yellow River Delta

Once free to wander up and down the coast of the North China Plain, the Yellow River Delta has been shaped by levees, canals, and jetties in recent decades. Read more

 

Water Watchers

In Idaho, NASA’s Landsat satellites are helping officials manage water resources and settle conflicts. Read more

 

Perspectives: Why EOS Matters, 10 years later

Nearly a decade ago, ecologist Steve Running described how NASA’s Earth Observing System missions were going to help us answer this crucial question: Is the current human occupancy and activity of planet Earth sustainable? In 2009, he revisited the question, making the case that Earth-observing satellites are more important than ever as humanity begins to deal with a changing climate. Read more

Flying Steady: Mission Control Tunes Up Aqua's Orbit

It takes work to maintain a satellite’s orbit. In the spring of 2009, mission controllers pilot NASA's Aqua satellite through a series of orbital maneuvers to correct the angle of the satellite’s flight path. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Journey to Galapagos

Following in Darwin's footsteps, NASA oceanographer Gene Feldman explores the remarkable Galapagos Islands. Read more

 

World of Change: Amazon Deforestation

The state of Rondônia in western Brazil is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. This series shows deforestation on the frontier in the northwestern part of the state between 2000 and 2010. Read more

 

World of Change: Shrinking Aral Sea

A massive irrigation project in the Kyzylkum Desert of central Asia has devastated the Aral Sea over the past 50 years. These images show the continued decline of the Southern Aral Sea in the past decade, as well as the first steps of recovery in the Northern Aral Sea in recent years. Read more

The World We Avoided by Protecting the Ozone Layer

An international team of scientists used a state-of-the-art computer model to learn “what might have been” if ozone-destroying chemicals had not been banned through the 1989 Montreal Protocol. Read more

World of Change: Mesopotamia Marshes

In the years following the Persian Gulf War, Iraqi residents began reclaiming the country’s nearly decimated Mesopotamian marshes. This series of images documents the transformation of the fabled landscape between 2000 and 2009. Read more

 

World of Change: Urbanization of Dubai

To expand the possibilities for beachfront tourist development, Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, undertook a massive engineering project to create hundreds of artificial islands along its Persian Gulf coastline. Read more

 

 
 

The Rising Cost of Natural Hazards

Disaster-related economic losses topped $145 billion in 2004, the latest in a disturbing upward trend. Has climate change increased the number and severity of natural disasters, or is the rising cost of natural disasters due to other human factors? Read more

 
 

From Forest to Field: How Fire is Transforming the Amazon

Current estimates of Amazon deforestation may capture less than half of the area degraded by logging and accidental fire. If the current trends continue, the entire Amazon frontier could be transformed into grass or scrubland. Read more

Humans and Climate Destroy Reef Ecosystem

Using fossilized coral reefs, Nerilie Abram constructed a 7,000-year climate history of cool/warm cycles in the Indian Ocean. In the course of her research she discovered that wildfires in Indonesia during the 1997-98 El Nino indirectly killed the Mentawai Reef. Read more

Drought Lowers Lake Mead

In the space of just three years, water levels in Lake Mead have fallen more than sixty feet due to sustained drought. Landsat images show the extent of the change to the lake's shoreline. Read more

Just Add Water: a Modern Agricultural Revolution in the Fertile Crescent

Satellite observations in the Middle East's Fertile Crescent have documented a modern agricultural revolution. The dramatic changes in crop production in southern Turkey over the last decade are the result of new irrigation schemes that tap the historic Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Read more

How on Earth was this Image Made?

Remotely sensed Earth observations can include everything from sonar measurements used to map the topography of the ocean floor to satellite-based observations of city lights. Combining observations collected by a variety of instruments at different times and places allow scientists to create an otherwise impossible view of the Earth, showing underwater mountain ranges, cloud-free skies, and city lights that are brighter than daylight. Such visualizations are invaluable for interpreting complex data and communicating scientific concepts. Read more

The Human Footprint

In North America, the black-tailed prairie dog occupies as little as 5 percent of its former habitat. In Madagascar, more than 20 lemur species are threatened with extinction, and at least 15 species are already extinct. And on the island of Mauritius in the Indian Ocean, fewer than 50 mature mandrinette hibiscus plants remain in the wild. Read more

Urbanization's Aftermath

Researchers have found that by reducing the amount of vegetation over large tracts of land, urbanization may affect the levels of greenhouse gases in our atmosphere. Read more

Tais that Bind

Using GIS techniques and Chinese population and socioeconomic data, linguists trace the origin of Tai dialect in Southeast Asia. Read more

 

Power to thePeople

Thanks to a team at NASA's Langley Research Center (LaRC), engineers and amateur inventors worldwide now have free access to global-scale data on natural renewable energy resources. Private companies are using these data to design, build, and market new technologies for harnessing this energy. The best part is many of these new systems will be marketed at affordable prices in underdeveloped countries for those who need them most. Read more

Measure for Measure

Governments and policy makers turn to science to better understand the impacts of global sea level rise on coastal cities. Read more

 

Life on the Brink

Data demonstrate that populations cluster--in increasingly greater numbers--near active volcanoes. Scientists theorize that while attractions offset perceived risks, such willingness to chance eruptions increases the potential for disaster. Read more

 

Location, Location, Location

Scientists review geographic factors to learn why wealth concentrates predominantly in temperate zones. Read more

 

Precision Farming

The U.S. Department of Agriculture, NASA, and NOAA are among key agencies contributing to precision farming revolution. The goal is to improve farmers' profits and harvest yields while reducing the negative impacts of farming on the environment that come from over-application of chemicals. Read more

New Tools for Diplomacy

Remote sensing technology, increasingly crucial to the understanding of Earth's climate and environmental processes, now permits the monitoring of global environmental conditions and the gathering of data that were historically unavailable. Read more

Reaping What We Sow: Mapping the Urbanization of Farmland Using Satellites and City Lights

Tracking urbanization, the conversion of rural landscape to urban habitat, has always been difficult due to the speed at which it progresses. Recently, NASA scientists came across a solution. Using satellite images of city lights at night, they constructed a map of urbanized areas and integrated this map with a soil map prepared by the United Nations. These maps indicate that urban centers may be destroying their best soils and putting future generations at risk. Read more

Bright Lights, Big City

For the past six years, researchers have been looking for ways to measure the effects of urbanization on biological productivity in countries around the world. To assist them with their research, they have created a method of mapping urbanization on a countrywide scale by using satellite images of the light cities generate at night. Read more

Adapting to Climate Change

Teams of scientists and resource planners assess their region’s most critical vulnerabilities in the United States National Assessment on the Potential Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. The report covers agricultural productivity, coastal areas, water resources, forests, and human health. Read more

Changing Our Weather One Smokestack at a Time

Daniel Rosenfeld and a team of scientists from the Hebrew University of Israel recently discovered that aerosol particles from factories and power plants increase the number of droplets in clouds they pollute. In doing so, the pollutants create brighter clouds that retain their water and do not produce rain. Read more

 

Human Impact on the Mojave

Researchers study long-term effects of disturbances to desert ecosystems. Read more

 

 

Why EOS Matters, 1999

Nearly a decade ago, ecologist Steve Running described how NASA’s Earth Observing System missions were going to help us answer this crucial question: Is the current human occupancy and activity of planet Earth sustainable? Read more

 

A Burning Question

Evidence suggests that atmospheric aerosols from biomass burning may offset global warming caused by greenhouse gases. Read more

 

Every Cloud Has a Filthy Lining

Sulfur dioxide in the exhaust from ship engines creates bright clouds. Read more

Remote Sensing

Results for: Remote Sensing

Greatest Hits from Landsat

Landsat 1 was launched in July 1972, starting the longest continuous observation of Earth's land surfaces from space. Here are some of the memorable scientific and societal contributions from the 40-year-old program. Read more

Landsat Looks and Sees

The world’s longest-running Earth-observing satellite program has collected more than three million images, showing two generations of planetary evolution and of human imprints on Earth. The Landsat archives tell an unparalleled story of our land surfaces. Read more

Looking Back on Ten Years of Aqua

Launched on May 4, 2002, NASA's Aqua satellite and its six instruments have provided a decade's worth of unprecedented views of our planet. Here are a few of our favorites. Read more

Where Is the Hottest Place on Earth?

Satellite research shows that the world’s hottest spot changes, though the conditions don’t. Think dry, rocky, and dark-colored lands...and cities. Read more

 

Top 11 from 2011

The most-visited images published in the Earth Observatory from 2011 are featured in this gallery. Read more

 

Seeing Forests for the Trees and the Carbon: Mapping the World’s Forests in Three Dimensions

Earth has a carbon problem, and some think trees are the answer. Would it help to plant more? To cut down fewer? Does it matter where? Scientists are working to get a better inventory of the carbon stored in trees. Read more

 

IceBridge: Building a Record of Earth’s Changing Ice, One Flight at a Time

NASA is sending a fleet of airplanes to the ends of the Earth for the next several years to figure out how and why polar ice is changing. Read more

 

Notes from the Field Blog: Eco3D: Exploring the Third Dimension of Forest Carbon

From August through September, NASA's P-3 research aircraft will be flying from Quebec to Florida to measure the three-dimensional structure and carbon storage capacity of North American forests. Read more

Every Flight is a Mission to Planet Earth

Observing Earth from space is one of the NASA’s longest-standing science experiments. This photo essay pays homage to the unique view of Earth that the space shuttle has delivered for 30 years. Read more

 

Earth Matters Blog

Earth is an amazing planet, and the one that matters most to us. Let's have a conversation about it. Read more

 

Natural Disasters and NASA - What Is The Agency's Role? An Interview with Michael Goodman

Working with basic researchers, engineers, and applied scientists--and a dozen satellite sensors--Michael Goodman helps assemble and coordinate NASA’s response to natural disasters and hazards. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: MABEL, Spring 2011

Flying on a high-altitude aircraft on the brink of space, the MABEL instrument is helping scientists to simulate measurements from NASA's next ice-observing satellite, ICESat-2. Read more

Earth Observing-1: Ten Years of Innovation

Scheduled to fly for a year, designed to last a year and a half, EO-1 celebrated its tenth anniversary on November 21, 2010. During its decade in space, the satellite has accomplished far more than anyone dreamed. Read more

Russian Firestorm: Finding a Fire Cloud from Space

NASA satellites help confirm that a strong firestorm fueled fires in western Russia and drew smoke high into the atmosphere in late July 2010. Read more

 

 

Elegant Figures

Our lead visualizer, Robert Simmon, blogs about data visualization and information design on the Earth Observatory. Read more

 

World of Change: Devastation and Recovery at Mt. St. Helens

The devastation of the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the gradual recovery of the surrounding landscape is documented in this series of satellite images from 1979—2011. Read more

Notes from the Field blog: Global Hawk Pacific (GloPac)

Join us for the next six weeks as scientists share their experiences from the first science mission on the Global Hawk, NASA's new unmanned aircraft. Read more

 

NASA's Newest Map of the World

Why did it take nearly three decades for scientists to create the first global portraits of Earth from NASA's Landsat missions? Read more

 

Perspectives: Why EOS Matters, 10 years later

Nearly a decade ago, ecologist Steve Running described how NASA’s Earth Observing System missions were going to help us answer this crucial question: Is the current human occupancy and activity of planet Earth sustainable? In 2009, he revisited the question, making the case that Earth-observing satellites are more important than ever as humanity begins to deal with a changing climate. Read more

Catalog of Earth Satellite Orbits

Different orbits give satellites different vantage points for viewing Earth. This fact sheet describes the common Earth satellite orbits and some of the challenges of maintaining them. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: North Woods, Maine 2009

NASA's Dr. Jon Ranson is on an expedition in the forests of central Maine to validate recent radar and lidar measurements which will help create more accurate and sensitive sensors to better understand the vegetation of the Earth and to balance the carbon budget. Read more

Earth Observatory 10th Anniversary

April 29, 2009, marked the 10th anniversary of the launch of NASA’s Earth Observatory Website. Read about the history, accomplishments, and goals of this award-winning Website. Read more

Sea Ice

Polar sea ice grows and shrinks dramatically each year, driven by seasonal cycles. Habitat for wildlife and harbinger of changing climate, sea ice offers scientists important clues about the state of our planet. Read more

American Carbon: Vulcan Project Maps Nation's Fossil Fuel Emissions in Detail

The Vulcan Project maps when and where Americans burn fossil fuels. Read more

 

Cities at Night: The View from Space

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station capture nighttime photographs of city lights, spectacular evidence of humanity's existence, our distribution, and our ability to change our environment. Read more

Observing Volcanoes, Satellite Thinks for Itself

Satellite sensor technology automates volcanic observation, providing timely information about the eruption of Nyamuragira Volcano. Read more

 

Earth's Temperature Tracker

NASA scientist James Hansen has tracked Earth's temperature for decades, and he is confident the global warming trend of 0.9 degrees Celsius observed since 1880 is mainly the result of human-produced greenhouse gases. Read more

 

Fire Alarms from Orbit

NASA satellites are playing a key role in an alert system that notifies the South African electric company when potential outage-causing fires come near the power lines. Read more

 

Remote River Reconnaissance

Elevation data collected from the space shuttle help map Earth's rivers in remote regions. Read more

 

Mosaic of Antarctica

Researchers use MODIS images to show Antarctica like you've never seen it before. Read more

 

The Art of Science

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) have many tasks, but a consistent favorite is taking photographs of Earth. Read more

 

Nimbus' 40th Anniversary

On August 28, 2004, NASA celebrated the 40th anniversary of the launch of the Nimbus-1 Earth-observation satellite. Starting in 1964 and for the next twenty years, the Nimbus series of missions was the United States' primary research and development platform for satellite remote-sensing of the Earth. Read more

High Water: Building a Global Flood Atlas

For more than a decade, geologist Bob Brakenridge has been pioneering the use of satellite data for monitoring floods. Read more

 

Terra Turns Five

In February 2000, NASA's Terra satellite began measuring Earth's vital signs with a combination of accuracy, precision, and resolution the world had never before seen. While the mission is still in the process of fulfilling its main science objectives, Terra's portfolio of achievements to date already marks the mission a resounding success. Read more

Aura: A Mission Dedicated to the Health of Earth's Atmosphere

On July 15, 2004 at 3:02 a.m., NASA launched the Aura satellite, the third flagship in a series of Earth-observing satellites designed to view Earth as a whole system, observe the net results of complex interactions within the climate system, and understand how the planet is changing in response to natural and human influences. Read more

Mayan Mysteries

Satellite data help scientists understand Mesoamerica's past and point the way toward a brighter future. Read more

 

A New IDEA in Air Quality Monitoring

NASA satellite data of regional haze allow EPA scientists to expand their focus from local to regional air quality monitoring and forecasting. Read more

 

Sensing Remote Volcanoes

More than 1,500 potentially active volcanoes dot the Earths landscape, of which approximately 500 are active at any given time. Satellite technology now makes it possible to monitor volcanic activity in even the most isolated corners of the globe. Read more

 

GRACE Fact Sheet

Launched in March 2002, the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment is a five-year mission intended to produce maps of the Earth’s gravity field with unprecedented precision and resolution. Read more

 

Double Vision

For the first time, scientists can rely on not one, but two satellites to monitor ocean surface topography, or sea level. TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, launched nearly 10 years apart, are now engaged in a tandem mission, creating a spaceborne ocean observatory that provides scientists, climate modelers, and forecasters with nearly global coverage of the world's ocean surface at an unprecedented level of precision. Read more

Measuring Ozone from Space Shuttle Columbia

New remote-sensing technology called limb viewing allows observation of the atmosphere from the side rather than straight down. From that side view the layers of the atmosphere appear like layers in a cake, allowing instruments to see the lower layers of the stratosphere where most of the recently observed ozone change, like the ozone hole, occurs. Read more

How on Earth was this Image Made?

Remotely sensed Earth observations can include everything from sonar measurements used to map the topography of the ocean floor to satellite-based observations of city lights. Combining observations collected by a variety of instruments at different times and places allow scientists to create an otherwise impossible view of the Earth, showing underwater mountain ranges, cloud-free skies, and city lights that are brighter than daylight. Such visualizations are invaluable for interpreting complex data and communicating scientific concepts. Read more

Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) Fact Sheet

Earth scientists will move a step closer to a full understanding of the Sun's energy output with the launch of the Solar Radiation and Climate Experiment (SORCE) satellite. SORCE will be equipped with four instruments now being built at the University of Colorado that will measure variations in solar radiation much more accurately than anything now in use and observe some of the spectral properties of solar radiation for the first time. With data from NASA's SORCE mission, researchers should be able to follow how the Sun affects our climate now and in the future. (Original 2001-11-30; updated 2003-01-21) Read more

ICESat Factsheet

The ICESat mission will provide multi-year elevation data needed to determine ice sheet mass balance as well as cloud property information, especially for stratospheric clouds common over polar areas. It will also provide topography and vegetation data around the globe, in addition to the polar-specific coverage over the Greenland and Antarctic ice sheets. Read more

Introduction to the LBA

The large-scale Biosphere-Atmosphere Experiment in Amazonia is an international research effort led by Brazil to investigate how the Amazon functions as a regional and global entity in atmospheric and biogeochemical cycles. Read more

 

Tracking Clouds

Tune in to the evening weather report on any given day, and you?ll no doubt see satellite images of clouds. For years, experts have used cloud observations to predict the weather, from forecasting extreme weather events, such as tornadoes and hurricanes, to simply telling people whether they need to take an umbrella or sunscreen on their afternoon picnic. Read more

Prospecting from Orbit

With help from the ASTER instrument aboard the NASA's Terra satellite, scientists at the U.S. Geological Survey have embarked on an ambitious effort to create a worldwide map of well-exposed metal ore deposits. Read more

 

Dropping in on a Hurricane

By dropping small sensors into hurricanes from above, scientists are acquiring data at high altitudes that will help them better unde rstand the structure and dynamics of hurricanes. Read more

 

Teaching Old Data New Tricks

Researchers have discovered that scatterometer data could provide important information on a variety of other surfaces, such as forests and ice, which became the basis for global climate change study applications. Read more

 

CALIPSO: A Global Perspective of Clouds and Aerosols from Space

The Cloud-Aerosol Lidar and Infrared Pathfinder Satellite Observations (CALIPSO) satellite mission helps scientists answer significant questions about climatic processes by providing new information on clouds and aerosols. Read more

Human Spaceflight Factsheet

Astronaut photography of Earth from the first space flights in the 1960s formed the foundation for the remote sensing technologies that followed. Read more

 

Aqua

Aqua carries six state-of-the-art instruments to observe the Earth's oceans, atmosphere, land, ice and snow covers, and vegetation, providing high measurement accuracy, spatial detail, and temporal frequency. This comprehensive approach enables scientists to study interactions among the many elements of the Earth system. Read more

NOAA-M Continues Polar-Orbiting Satellite Series

Since the 1960s, NASA has developed polar-orbiting operational environmental satellites for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA-M, the latest NOAA spacecraft, was launched on June 24, 2002. Read more

 

Domes of Destruction

Imagery from the ASTER satellite instrument helps scientists monitor volcanic domes. Read more

 

Tais that Bind

Using GIS techniques and Chinese population and socioeconomic data, linguists trace the origin of Tai dialect in Southeast Asia. Read more

 

Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment III

The Stratospheric Aerosol and Gas Experiment (SAGE III) is a fourth-generation satellite instrument for observing the long-term health of the upper atmosphere, including the amounts of ozone, aerosols (suspended particles), and water vapor. Read more

 

Weather Forecasting Through the Ages

Only fifty years ago, weather forecasting was an art, derived from the inspired interpretation of data from a loose array of land-based observing stations, balloons, and aircraft. Since then it has evolved substantially, based on an array of satellite and other observations and sophisticated computer models simulating the atmosphere and sometimes additional elements of the Earth's climate system. The AIRS/AMSU/HSB combination on board the [soon to be launched] EOS Aqua satellite should further these advances, enabling more accurate predictions over longer periods. Read more

Hantavirus Risk Maps

Satellite and ground truth data help scientists predict the risk of hantavirus pulmonary syndrome. Read more

 

Tracking a Volcano: Satellite Observations of Piton de la Fournaise

NASA satellite data from Terra and Landsat provide a unique perspective on the 2002 eruption of the Piton de la Fournaise volcano. Read more

 

Research Satellites for Atmospheric Science, 1978-Present

NASA and its affiliated agencies and research institutions developed a series of research satellites that have enabled scientists to test new remote sensing technologies that have advanced scientific understanding of both chemical and physical changes in the atmosphere. Read more

New Light on Ice Motion

MODIS' unprecedented high resolution reveals clues to Antarctic topography and ice history. Read more

 

Power to the People

Thanks to a team at NASA's Langley Research Center (LaRC), engineers and amateur inventors worldwide now have free access to global-scale data on natural renewable energy resources. Private companies are using these data to design, build, and market new technologies for harnessing this energy. The best part is many of these new systems will be marketed at affordable prices in underdeveloped countries for those who need them most. Read more

Well Grounded

A team effort allows scientists to validate and make MODIS data accessible to a wide audience. Read more

 

Astronaut Photography: Observing Earth from the International Space Station

The Destiny Laboratory aboard the International Space Station includes the best optical quality window ever flown on a human-occupied spacecraft. Through this window, astronauts are photographing the Earth’s surface as part of an early project, called Crew Earth Observations Read more

New Tools for Diplomacy

Remote sensing technology, increasingly crucial to the understanding of Earth's climate and environmental processes, now permits the monitoring of global environmental conditions and the gathering of data that were historically unavailable. Read more

 

HDF-EOS

The EOS Data and Information System distributes Earth Science Enterprise data through the Distributed Active Archive Centers, the institutions responsible for archiving and making data products readily available to anyone who wants them. Read more

 

Earth Observing 1 (EO-1)

In 2000, NASA launched Earth Observing-1 (EO-1). While flying at an altitude of 705-kilometers, EO-1's primary focus is to test advanced instruments, spacecraft systems, and mission concepts in flight. EO-1 will also return scientific data which is used in comparison with other satellite data to ensure the continuity of land-imaging data. Read more

Reaping What We Sow: Mapping the Urbanization of Farmland Using Satellites and City Lights

Tracking urbanization, the conversion of rural landscape to urban habitat, has always been difficult due to the speed at which it progresses. Recently, NASA scientists came across a solution. Using satellite images of city lights at night, they constructed a map of urbanized areas and integrated this map with a soil map prepared by the United Nations. These maps indicate that urban centers may be destroying their best soils and putting future generations at risk. Read more

Bright Lights, Big City

For the past six years, researchers have been looking for ways to measure the effects of urbanization on biological productivity in countries around the world. To assist them with their research, they have created a method of mapping urbanization on a countrywide scale by using satellite images of the light cities generate at night. Read more

Measuring Vegetation (NDVI & EVI)

In an effort to monitor major fluctuations in vegetation and understand how they affect the environment scientist use satellite remote sensors to measure and map the density of green vegetation over the Earth. By carefully measuring the wavelengths and intensity of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the land surface back up into space, scientists use an algorithm called a “Vegetation Index” to quantify the concentrations of green leaf vegetation around the globe. Read more

Watching the Sun

The Active Cavity Radiometer Irradiance Monitor III will monitor the sun's total radiation output so scientists can better predict the sun's effect on global climate change. Read more

 

Flying High for Fine Wine

NASA and Robert Mondavi Winery researchers worked together to use airborne remote sensing technology to classify grapevines and produce better wine. Read more

 

RAMPing Up

International teamwork yields a high-resolution map of Antarctica. Read more

 

 

Learning To Fly

Mission managers had to work through some "exciting" episodes during the launch and initial deployment of NASA’s Terra satellite. Read more

 

Finding Fossils from Space

Satellite imagery helps fossil hunters find dinosaurs in the Gobi Desert. Read more

 

 

Space-based Observations of the Earth

With increasingly sophisticated satellite remote sensors, we can measure a wide range of geophysical parameters (such as surface temperature, distribution of clouds and aerosol particles, the abundance of trace gases in the atmosphere, or the distribution and types of life on land and in the ocean) with unprecedented accuracy and resolution. Read more

UARS: A Model Data Set

Read more

 

Eye on the Sun - Solstice

SOLSTICE, an instrument aboard the UARS satellite, created a standard against which future monitoring of the Sun could be measured. Read more

 

ACRIMSAT

By measuring the total amount of energy that the sun delivers to the Earth with ACRIMSAT, scientists will be able to build better scientific models of the Earth’s climate system, providing a vital piece of the global climate change puzzle. Read more

 

Remote Sensing

Remote sensing is the science and art of identifying, observing, and measuring an object without coming into direct contact with it. This involves the detection and measurement of radiation of different wavelengths reflected or emitted from distant objects or materials, by which they may be identified and categorized. Read more

 

QuikSCAT

QuikSCAT provides climatologists, meteorologists and oceanographers with daily, detailed snapshots of the winds swirling above the world’s oceans. Read more

 

Landsat 7 Fact Sheet

The latest mission in the Landsat series—Landsat 7—continues the flow of global change information to users worldwide. Scientists use Landsat satellites to gather remotely sensed images of the land surface and surrounding coastal regions for global change research, regional environmental change studies and other civil and commercial purposes. Read more

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), is the first mission dedicated to measuring tropical and subtropical rainfall through microwave and visible infrared sensors, and includes the first spaceborne rain radar. Read more

 

Changing Global Land Surface

Satellite remote sensing enables researchers to consistently monitor distribution and seasonal changes of the world’s vegetation and the exchanges of water and carbon between land vegetation and the atmosphere. These observations will help us understand the rate of change of atmospheric carbon dioxide and its effect on climate. Read more

Terra Spacecraft Fact Sheet

On December 18, 1999, NASA launched a new flagship, the Terra satellite, to begin collecting a new 18-year global data set on which to base future scientific investigations about our complex home planet. Read more

 

Fire! NASA Demonstrates New Technology for Monitoring Fires From Space

The Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) enables scientists to detect active fires, estimate rates of combustion, and estimate how much smoke, greenhouse gases, and aerosol particles the fires produce Read more


[NOTE: The tab items included on this page are drawn from NASA's Earth Observatory.]