The Earth Observing-1 (EO-1) satellite was orbiting at an altitude of about 700 kilometers (400 miles) when it captured our April 11 Image of the Day — a nadir view of Kilauea’s Kahaualeʻa 2 lava flow creeping through forests northeast of Pu’u ’O’o crater. Much closer to the surface, the U.S. Geological Survey monitors the lava flow with helicopter overflights.
The image below shows a portion of the flow as it appeared on March 7, 2014. The smoke near the flow front is caused by lava burning trees and other vegetation in ohia lehua forests. Gases emanating from the vent are visible on the upper left.
For more aerial imagery of Kahaualeʻa 2, visit the Hawaiian Volcano Observatory’s multimedia page. The image below was acquired by satellite on March 11, 2014. Click on it for more details.
For the second year in a row, an image from the Canary Islands took the championship of Tournament: Earth. In 2013, a submarine volcano near El Hierro Island was the crowd favorite. This year, it was a shot of the entire island chain that dominated the vote. When “Trailing the Canaries” faced “Activity at Kliuchevskoi” in the championship round, it wasn’t just a win for the Canaries image; it was a blowout. Of the nearly 50,000 votes cast, 96 percent went to the Canary Islands image.
To salute our many readers from the Canaries, we’ve combed through our archives and selected five of our all-time favorite images involving the island chain. They are posted below from oldest to newest. Click on each image for more details. Enjoy!
I thought the March Puzzler would be an easy one, but it turned out to be one of the more difficult we’ve posted. As explained in our March 29, 2014, Image of the Day, the image shows Nalabana Bird Sanctuary in India’s Chilika Lake. Despite more than 50 guesses on Earth Matters and 500 on Facebook, nobody came up with the exact location. However, many readers (including Steve Martin and Wendy Spiteri) did recognize the shrimp farms or that it was somewhere in India.
I kept the caption to a few paragraphs, but there’s a lot more that could be written about Chilika Lake. It’s a beautiful and fascinating place that faces environmental, economic, and political challenges that are as complicated as anywhere in the world. In 2002, for instance, authorities dredged a new connection with the Bay of Bengal after silt narrowed the existing mouth and made it more difficult for salty water to enter the lake. While the new mouth increased salinity levels, it did little to resolve the pitched debate between shrimp farmers and traditional fishing communities that has simmered for years. In 1996, the Supreme Court of India banned aquaculture within 1,000 meters (3,300 feet) of Chilika Lake because of environmental concerns, yet enclosures known as “gheries” (which are even visible to satellites…see page 50 of this Powerpoint) remain widespread. You can read more about the ongoing debate about aquaculture in Chilika Lake from Infochange, Economic Times, Radio Netherlands, and the Times of India.
On March 25, 2014, we published this nadir view of debris and a barrier lake created by a major landslide near Oso, Washington; the image was acquired by the Landsat 8 satellite on March 23. While top-down satellite views are Earth Observatory’s specialty, such images can be challenging to interpret because of how foreign the scale and topography appear from above as compared to how we normally see the world from the ground. To help make the nadir perspective more intuitive, I try to share matching aerial or ground photography when it is available. The set of images below, originally published by the office of Washington State Governor Jay Inslee, was taken during an aerial survey on the same day that Landsat 8 acquired its image. For more photographs of the landslide, visit Inslee’s Flickr page.
Every month we offer a puzzling satellite image here on Earth Matters. The March 2014 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what the image shows, what part of the world we are looking at, when the image was acquired, and why the scene is interesting.
How to answer. Your answer can be a few words or several paragraphs. (Try to keep it shorter than 200 words). You might simply tell us what part of the world an image shows. Or you can dig deeper and explain what satellite and instrument produced the image, what spectral bands were used to create it, or what is compelling about some obscure speck in the far corner of an image. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, tell us about it.
The prize. We can’t offer prize money, but, we can promise you credit and glory (well, maybe just credit). Roughly one week after a puzzler image appears on this blog, we will post an annotated and captioned version as our Image of the Day. In the credits, we’ll acknowledge the person who was first to correctly ID the image. We’ll also recognize people who offer the most interesting tidbits of information. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for or attend an institution that you want us to recognize, please mention that as well.
Recent winners. If you’ve won the puzzler in the last few months or work in geospatial imaging, please sit on your hands for at least a few days to give others a chance to play.
Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved many of our puzzlers after only a few minutes or hours. To give more people a chance to play, we may wait between 24-48 hours before posting the answers we receive in the comment thread.
How is your bracket looking after the opening round of Tournament Earth? Unsurprisingly, top seeds Global Toll of Particulate Pollution (56.2 percent of votes), Snow Across Great Britain (50.7 percent), and Liege at Night (54.7) all dispatched weaker opponents in the first round of competition. The notable exception among the top seeds was Air Quality Suffering in China, which went down to eight-seeded Something Fishing in the Deep, Dark Ocean in a surprise loss in the events section, earning a mere 35.7 percent of votes. The other big upset of the opening round was seventh-seed Deforestation in Brazil knocking out second-seed Smoke Engulfs Singapore, with 50.9 percent of the vote. Haiyan’s Winds, Ship Tracks off North America, Fires in Colorado, and New Island Off Pakistan also went down in defeat against lesser opponents. Polls are open for you to vote for the sixteen images that remain through Friday at 4:00 p.m. EDT / 8:00 p.m. UTC. Vote at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/TournamentEarth/
I hope your brackets are ready because polls for round one of Tournament Earth close today at 4 p.m EST/9 p.m. UTC. Second round voting will open on Monday at 9 a.m. EST/ 1 p.m. UTC). Also, stay tuned for occasional posts on Earth Matters with details about how images fared in the competition.
The images in the tournament are a blend of reader and staff favorites from the 2013 calendar year. The images are seeded and divided into four brackets categorized by image type: data visualization, photographs, art, and events. The top seed in the data visualization bracket — and the No. 1 seed overall — is a global map of fine particulate pollution that garnered more than 150,000 page views in 2013. The photo section is topped by a nighttime view of Liege, Belgium, as photographed by an astronaut on the International Space Station. The “art” section is led by a satellite image of a rare snowfall in Great Britain. The top seed among natural events is a January 2013 satellite image of a smog and pollution over China — the second most popular image on the Earth Observatory last year. Six of the seven most-viewed images on the site are battling in the events section. Good luck with your bracket!
Create and print your bracket at
This is not a mine, military base, salt farm, or solar plant. As explained in our March 2, 2014, Image of the Day, this is a date orchard near the Orange River in Northern Cape, South Africa. Thanks to all of you who weighed in our February 2014 puzzler. Reader JMR was first to identify the location, though many readers (including Paul Tinsley and Samuel Blantz) were on the right track by guessing it was a farm.
As with past puzzlers, we had a good deal of participation on Facebook (600+ comments and counting). While you are welcome to submit answers on Facebook, please be aware that I look at the comments posted to the Earth Matters blog first. I have to sift through significant amounts of spam on Facebook, which means that there is a greater chance I may overlook a correct answer there than on Earth Matters. We’ll be back in a few weeks with the March Puzzler.
On February 27, 2014, we published an Image of the Day of the Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) satellite soaring above Tanegashima Space Center like a candle in the sky. However, that wasn’t the only spectacular photograph of the night launch that chief NASA photographer Bill Ingalls (@ingallsimages) captured. I collected a few of my favorites below, and you can browse many more on NASA’s Flickr page.
You can also read more about Ingalls’ work for NASA — which at one point required climbing into an active volcano in Antarctica to get photos of a robot that was testing concepts for a planetary mission — in this profile and this Q & A with Space News.
Most years, the Swiss Air Force hosts an air show in the fall that sends planes roaring over the Axalp-Ebenfluh firing range near Brienz, Switzerland. Spectators often congregate at the Axalp, a resort area on a terrace that overlooks Brienz from an elevation of about 1,500 meters (4,900 feet). While waiting for the 2013 show on October 13, 2013, Luca Brüderlin captured this image of a cable car emerging from a layer of fog along a rock wall. Brüderlin was one of twelve winners of a precipitation-themed photography contest sponsored by the Global Precipitation Mission (GPM), a new Earth-observing satellite that is scheduled to launch from Tanegashima Space Center in Japan this week. The lower image was collected by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Aqua satellite. It shows the clouds and fog in the area from above on the same day that Brüderlin took his photograph.
See more of the winning photographs at