I wrote a diary a year ago about Picture of the Day web sites. It was a sampling of a few that were noteworthy in my opinion. Feel free to go take a look. But, please come back. There is another one I've been using a lot lately called NASA Earth Observatory. Below is the Image of the Day for today. It shows the ozone hole over the Antarctic in 1979 and 1987.
Twenty five years ago this week, scientists and policymakers unveiled what the United Nations calls “the most successful treaty in UN history.” On September 16, 1987, the first 24 nations signed on to the Montreal Protocol on Substances that Deplete the Ozone Layer; 173 more have signed on in the years since. The international agreement likely saved the world from an environmental crisis, while setting an example for how to develop and implement environmental policy.
For a more complete story about the ozone hole images, please visit this link.
Mission of the Earth Observatory
The mission of the Earth Observatory’s is to share with the public the images, stories, and discoveries about climate and the environment that emerge from NASA research, including its satellite missions, in-the-field research, and climate models.
The Earth Observatory staff is supported by the Climate and Radiation Laboratory, and the Hydrospheric and Biospheric Sciences Laboratory located at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center.
Their focus is on the Earth and climate. The science and research produces beautiful images and graphics to support the stories. In the space below the squiggle, I will share a few of those. I encourage you to bookmark the site. Visit it often. Subscribe for weekly email notices about recent additions.
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The Missions Involved
Earth Observatory is part of the Earth Observing System (EOS) at Goddard. The link shows nine current missions, one future mission, and fourteen retired completed missions. EOS consists of polar-orbiting and low inclination satellites. They provide long-term global observations of the land surface, biosphere, solid Earth, atmosphere, and oceans. EOS views the Earth as an integrated system. Their goal is to bring information and resources to scientists and the general public alike.
For the public, the most striking information is often in images and graphics. These tell the story of the challenges we face on Earth to maintain our climate and environment and make it last for future generations. The impacts upon Earth come in many forms. We see populations encroaching on the surrounding environment. Carbon dioxide brings about warming and related changes to weather. Natural events like volcanoes and hurricanes impact the planet. These are the stories shared.
Raging Fires in Russia
Click each picture for the full story.
The summer of 2012 has proven to be the most severe wildfire season Russia has faced in a decade. Unlike 2010, when severe fires raged in western Russia, most of the fires in 2012 have burned through taiga in remote parts of eastern and central Siberia.
Pine Bark Beetles in Colorado
In Colorado, severe beetle infestations showed up in lodgepole pine forests about 50 miles west of Boulder and Fort Collins around 2000. Over time, the affected area grew so that by 2011 the infestation had spread east to ponderosa pine forests that were much closer to the two cities. The beetle epidemic caused so many trees to die-off that the impacts are visible from space. The Thematic Mapper on Landsat 5 acquired these images of lodgepole pine forests near Grand Lake, Colorado on September 11, 2005, and September 28, 2011—before and after a severe infestation led to die-off of the tree canopy.A feature of this story is called View Image Comparison. Follow the linked image below. Just after the second image is a button for image comparison. Many of the Earth Observatory stories have before and after comparisons.
Kuwait City at Night
Cities are the focus of many images and stories on the site. Our cities impact Earth in many different ways. The images are meant to highlight those impacts we humans have on the environment. An enlarged version of this image is here. Click the image below for the text of the story.
Seen at night, Kuwait City contrasts dramatically with the dark surface of the Persian Gulf and the sparsely populated desert. Night views also show some aspects of urban geography that are difficult to perceive in daylight images. Here the focus of radial traffic arteries and “ring roads” guide the eye toward the financial center of Kuwait’s capital—on the cape extending into Kuwait Bay, north of the First Ring Road. The numbering of the ring roads shows the progressive southward development of the city towards the Seventh Ring Road, which still lies outside the built-up area.
Another city example. Click here for the enlarged version. Click the image below for the text of the story.
In this image, the Columbia and Willamette Rivers appear bright blue. Red indicates developed (urban) areas, with darker shades showing more intense development. Croplands are tan and pasturelands are yellow. Forest is green. Other classifications are shown in the key below the map.
Meeting of the Waters in Brazil
Coffee-colored water runs from the Andes on the Rio Solimões. Black water from Colombia and interior jungles is colored by decayed plant matter. It is the Rio Negro. The two rivers join near Manaus, Brazil. They flow beside each other for several kilometers. They eventually mix to become the Lower Amazon River. The enlarged version is especially detailed and worth a view.
“Six Mississippis’ worth of cafe-au-lait-colored water are converging here with two Mississippis’ worth of black-tea-colored water to produce the greatest hydrologic spectacle on the planet,” said Robert Meade, who spent decades studying rivers for the U.S. Geological Survey. “Put in terms of the sheer quantities of water, what we are seeing here is a volume of water at least a dozen times greater than the total of the water falling over the Niagara, Iguassu, and Victoria Falls combined.”
Van Allen Radiation Belts
Of special interest to me was this image and story of the Van Allen Radiation Belts. They were discovered early in the space age by Iowa native James Van Allen. He was instrumental in their discovery and analysis with the launch of the first American satellite Explorer I. Enlarged image view.
Fifty-four years later, NASA has embarked on a missions designed specifically to understand the space weather in the dynamic and erratic Van Allen Belts. At 4:05 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time on August 30, 2012, the Radiation Belt Storm Probes (RBSP) were launched into orbit on a United Launch Alliance Atlas V rocket that lifted off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida.
Blogs at Earth Observatory
Lastly, a section of the site with addition rich content is the Blog section. In it you will find discussions and more in-depth presentations by some of the participating scientists on such areas as Earth Matters, Notes From the Field, Climate Q & A, and Elegant Figures on data visualizations. For anyone with special interest in the Earth, its climate, and the scientific efforts conducted to study them, this section is excellent. The entire site is becoming an essential one for me. As much as I like to visit the Astronomy Picture of the Day for a look outward, I am enjoying this look inward to our home planet Earth.