Results for: Land

Kilauea From Orbit

In early May 2018, an eruption on Hawaii’s Kilauea volcano began to unfold. Here’s what satellites saw in the first few weeks of the eruption. Read more

April 2018 Highlights

Astronauts regularly shoot photographs of their earthly home. In celebration of National Astronaut Day, NASA Earth Observatory presents some recent eye-catchers from the International Space Station. Read more

March 2018 Highlights

In March 2018, NASA Earth Observatory published satellite images, maps, and data visualizations as "Image of the Day." Here are five of our favorites. Read more

Landsat 8 Turns 5

The Landsat series of satellites have been chronicling changes on Earth’s surface for 46 years. In the past five years, Landsat 8 has brought us an unparalleled look at the beauty and dynamism of our planet. Read more

Notes from the Field: In New Mexico, Land of Volcanoes

In 2017, scientists with the Goddard Instrument Field Team (GIFT) descended on the Potrillo volcanic field, a now-dormant region in the New Mexico portion of the Chihuahuan Desert. The site serves as a "planetary analog," where researchers can test instruments that future explorers might use to investigate volcanic areas on the Moon, Mars and other rocky planets. Read more

Autumn from Orbit

From the Great Lakes to the mountains of Sweden, satellites offer an incredible view of autumn in the northern hemisphere. Read more

Argentina After Dark

When viewed from a satellite in daylight, the landscape of central Argentina shows barely a sign of human settlement. But by night, the place could be mistaken for a game of luminescent connect-the-dots. Read more

NASA Earth Observatory Goes to the Beach

Summer is beach season in the northern hemisphere. But even if you're a regular at your local swimming hole, you probably haven't seen too many beaches from this perspective. See the satellite and space-station views of various shorelines from across the United States. No sunblock necessary. Read more

Earth at Night

Satellite images of Earth at night have been a curiosity for the public and a tool of fundamental research for at least 25 years. They have provided a broad, beautiful picture, showing how humans have shaped the planet and lit up the darkness. Read more

EO-1: 17 Images from 17 Years

Since 2000, Earth Observing-1 has provided stunning views of our planet in its beauty and fury, while advancing satellite technology and imaging. The satellite is being turned off, but its legacy lives on. Read more

The Chesapeake Bay Watershed: Still Cloudy, With a Chance of Clearing

It is the largest estuary in the United States and third largest in the world. Once sculpted and changed by ice, water, and powerful geologic forces over tens of millions of years, today's Bay is shaped by human forces as well. Read more

A Tale of Fire and Water: A NASA Scientist’s Quest to Understand the Rain in Africa

Charles Ichoku wants to understand whether fires in sub-Saharan Africa are changing the timing and duration of rains. The viability of Lake Chad may depend on what his team finds. Read more

National Parks from Space

The U.S. National Park Service celebrates its centennial in 2016, commemorating 100 years of stewardship of America’s natural and historic treasures. Many of those monuments, scenic rivers, parks, and historic sites are visible from space—where the views are just as compelling. Read more

World of Change: Ice Loss in Glacier National Park

Shrinking since at least the early 1900s, the ice cover in Glacier National Park is expected to keep declining until only insignificant lumps remain. These images show changes to the park's ice and surrounding landscape since 1984. Read more

Natural Beauty at Risk: Preparing for Climate Change in National Parks

Many National Parks were created to protect forests and ecosystems from development and fragmentation. But changes in temperature, rainfall, and atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide could eventually do as much to remake forests as humans did with saws and fires and bulldozers. Read more

Notes from the Field: Arctic-Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE)

The Arctic Boreal Vulnerability Experiment (ABoVE) is a multi-year field campaign in Alaska and western Canada, involving dozens of research teams. ABoVE researchers are investigating the vulnerability and resilience of ecosystems (such as permafrost, forests, and coastlines) and society to this changing environment. Read more

A Little Bit of Water, A Lot of Impact

Compared to the amount of water stored in the oceans, ice caps, and lakes, the amount in the soil is minuscule. But that small volume has great significance for weather and climate. Read more

Sea Level Rise Hits Home at NASA

Sea level rise is not just an academic concern for NASA satellites and scientists. With two-thirds of its infrastructure and assets situated on the coast, the agency has first-hand experience with the effects of rising waters. Read more

World of Change: Development of Orlando, Florida

Theme parks and other development has turned Central Florida from swampland to the most visited tourist region of the United States. Read more

World of Change: Water Level in Lake Powell

Combined with human demands, a multi-year drought in the Upper Colorado River Basin caused a dramatic drop in the Colorado River’s Lake Powell in the early part of the 2000s. The lake began to recover in the latter part of the decade, but as of 2015, it was still well below capacity. Read more

Big Data Helps Scientists Dig Deeper

Empowered by free access to the Landsat data archive, earth scientists are using new computing tools to ask questions that were impossible to answer a decade ago. From week-to-week fluctuations in forests to year-to-year changes in land cover, researchers can now examine our planet in much greater detail. Read more

Growing Deltas in Atchafalaya Bay

While the sea overtakes much of the delta plain of the Mississippi River, sediment from the Atchafalaya River is building two new deltas to the west. Read more

Landsat Goes Over the Top: A Long View of the Arctic

Hitch a ride with Landsat 8 as it takes flight over the North Pole on the solstice. Read more

Notes from the Field: Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) Launch

Knowledge of soil moisture is important for applications such as weather forecasting, crop monitoring, and flood prediction. For a global picture of this key parameter, NASA is launching the Soil Moisture Active Passive (SMAP) satellite. Read more

World of Change: Coastline Change

The shoreline of Cape Cod provides a visual case study in the evolution and dynamic motion of barrier islands and spits. Read more

World of Change: Shrinking Aral Sea

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

Notes from the Field: NASA in Alaska 2014

Planes, balloons, and boots on the ground are just some of the approaches NASA scientists are taking this summer and fall in Alaska to investigate the region's changing landscapes, from forests and fire to ice and solar radiation. Read more

Landsat 8 Delivering On Its Promises

It was built to extend a four-decade record of Earth observations. One year after launch, Landsat 8 has deepened the archives and our insights — not just of the land, but of the sea and sky. Here are some of our favorite images to date. Read more

Islands in the Sun

If the cold of winter is getting you down, take flight to some tropical islands. Here are a few of our favorites, as viewed from satellites and the International Space Station. We can take your mind, but you'll need your own travel agent to get your body there. Read more

The Eight-Thousanders

There is no greater challenge for mountain climbers than reaching the summit of the world’s 14 tallest peaks. Here is what they look like from space. Read more

Holidays from the Heights

Bask in the warm light of your computer screen and sample the festive sights of the season from the perspective of satellites and space station residents. Read more

Dusting the Virtues of Snow

Scientist Tom Painter examines the differences between pure and dirty snow. A rise in dust can be a critical influence on snow-fed water supplies in the American West. Read more

Come Fly With the Newest Landsat

Satellites don't take videos; they capture still images. But in a new mosaic, 56 stills have been stitched together to present a seamless video flyover of what LDCM saw one day in April 2013. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Iowa Flood Studies

A field campaign called the Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) is taking place in eastern Iowa from May 1 to June 15, 2013. The goal is to evaluate how well rainfall data from the upcoming Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission can be used for flood forecasting. GPM is scheduled for launch in early 2014. Read more

Managing Fire in Etosha National Park

Prescribed fires should prevent blazes from raging out of control in one of Namibia’s most prized wildlife preserves. Read more

In a Warming World, the Storms May Be Fewer But Stronger

Extreme storms such as Hurricane Sandy, Snowmageddon, and the tornadoes of 2011 have prompted questions about whether climate change is affecting the intensity of weather. Satellites, statistics, and scientific models are teaching us a lot about what we know and don't know about severe storms. Read more

World of Change: Green Seasons of Maine

Not many places on Earth have year-round greenery and four distinct seasons. The images in this series show the four seasons of Maine, the most forest-covered state in the U.S.A. Read more

Out of the Blue and Into the Black

The night is nowhere near as dark as most of us think. In fact, the Earth is never really dark; it twinkles with lights from humans and nature. Read more

Hunting Fossils from Afar

Paleontologists use Landsat images and an artificial intelligence to identify sites likely to yield fossils. Read more

The Gravity of Water

Scientists are using novel measurements of gravity to gather indispensable information about Earth’s water supplies. The GRACE mission can see water flowing underground. Read more

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

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

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

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

Notes from the Field Blog: The Western Siberia Expedition 2010

An international team of scientists working in Siberia report on their expedition to collect data related to the Earth's carbon budget and to document the effects of climate change in the region. 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—2015. 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

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

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 2012. 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

William Smith (1769-1839)

William Smith discovered that he could identify rock layers by the unique fossils they held. His discovery helped later generations of scientists to understand the history of life on Earth. 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


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

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

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

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


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

Nicolaus Steno

Although he lived at a time when people believed in witches and unicorns, Nicolaus Steno established some of the most important principles of modern geology. 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

The Road to Recovery

A recent study in the Amazon rain forest shows that some types of logging may not negatively impact the carbon cycle as originally thought. 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

From Wetland to Wasteland

Due to drought and over irrigation, the once fertile Hamoun wetlands on the Iran-Afghan border have all but disappeared. Using remote sensing satellites developed by NASA, researchers with the United Nations Environmental Program are cataloguing the extent of the wetlands degradation and exploring ways to restore them. Read more

Burned Area Emergency Rehabilitation

The aftermath of a wildfire can be as dangerous as the blaze itself. The charred landscape is prone to flooding and erosion, and natural resource experts usually have only one week to assess the damage and propose steps to mitigate disaster. Satellite mapping of burned areas can save crews time and money by helping guide field crews to the most crucial areas. USDA Forest Service and University of Maryland scientists are partnering up in a project to collect ground-based data to check the accuracy of their satellite-based Burn Severity maps. 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


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

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

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

Fiery Temperament

Sufficient human pressure can transform tropical rainforest into savanna, and savanna into desert. Desertification now threatens more than a billion people worldwide, although its impacts are most severe in Africa. 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

Scientist for a Day

Elementary and secondary students and teachers in the Midwestern U.S. collect snow and cloud data at their schools to help scientists validate satellite data in a global change research study. Read more

Domes of Destruction

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

Testing the Waters

Using imagery from Landsat satellites, scientists have mapped the water clarity for over 10,000 of Minnesota’s lakes. The maps have allowed them to evaluate water quality patterns across the state. 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

Snow Sleuths

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

When Land Slides

Data imaging techniques provide scientists with new tools to study and map landslides. Read more

A View From Above

International scientists with diverse backgrounds work together to better understand movement of carbon between the Earth's forests and atmosphere. Read more

Well Grounded

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

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

Location, Location, Location

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

Astronauts Photograph Mount Pinatubo

In early 1991, Mt. Pinatubo, a volcano north of Manila on the Philippine island of Luzon, had been dormant for more than 500 years. Few geologists would have guessed that it would produce one of the world's most explosive eruptions in the twentieth century. 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

From the Dust Bowl to the Sahel

Severe drought and poor soil conversation practices contribute to desertification. 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

Where Frogs Live

Researchers use remote sensing to monitor amphibian health. Read more

Alfred Wegener

Alfred Wegener proposed the theory of continental drift - the idea that the Earth's continents move over hundreds of millions of years of geologic time - long before the idea was commonly accepted. 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

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

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

Mission: Biomes

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to live in a different part of the world? What would the weather be like? What kinds of animals would you see? Which plants live there? By investigating these questions, you are learning about biomes. Read more

Dry Times in North America

Recurring droughts are common in the American West, and a 2008 report from the U.S. Climate Change Science Program cautions that they may become more common (press release). This article from 2000 describes how scientists use data from satellites and rain gauges along with tree-rings and lakebed sediments to understand and predict drought in North America. 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

The Dirt on Carbon

Researchers examine the implications of melting permafrost in the northern forests. Read more

Perspective on Plants

Satellite observations help landowners and land managers monitor the health of their land by providing a larger perspective. 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

Human Impact on the Mojave

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

RAMPing Up

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

River Seasons

Remote sensing data help scientists understand large river systems and basin hydrology. Read more

Finding Fossils from Space

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

Grasslands Initiative

Researchers establish a baseline for understanding net primary productivity: the total amount of carbon plants take out of the atmosphere and use for growth. Read more

Fire and Ice

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

Growing Data

Researchers use satellite data to characterize the seasonal dynamics of arctic vegetation. Read more

Hurricane Floyd: Fearing the Worst

In the wake of Hurricane Floyd, polluted runoff threatened North Carolina’s rivers and beaches. Read more

When Rivers of Rock Flow

Lahars are landslides composed of slurries of volcanic rock, ash, and water, that often occur after eruptions. Read more

Hurricane Floyd’s Lasting Legacy - Introduction

Hurricane Floyd struck eastern North Carolina on September 15, 1999. In it's wake the storm left polluted floodwaters and sediment-choked rivers. Read more

Putting Earthquakes in Their Place

Using modern global databases, hundreds of research reports, satellite photos, and computerized drafting methods, a group of researchers at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center has pieced together what’s considered a series of objective and comprehensive maps (what’s known as a Geological Information System, or GIS) of the planet’s tectonic activity. Read more

Global Temperature Trends - Continued Global Warmth in 1999

Global surface temperatures in 1999 fell back from the record setting high level of 1998, which was the warmest year in the period of instrumental data. Read more

Mapping Malaria

For the past fifteen years Don Roberts and a group of scientists at the Uniformed Services University and NASA have been working on a system to pinpoint houses and areas at high risk for the malaria using medical databases of malaria, airplane photographs, and even remote sensing satellites. Read more


The Greenland Ice Sheet is losing ground. Read more

Introduction to BOREAS

BOREAS’ primary goals were to determine how the boreal forest interacts with the atmosphere (via the transfer of gases and energy), how much carbon is stored in the forest ecosystem, how climate change will affect the forest, and how changes in the forest affects weather and climate. Read more

Silvus Borealis

A multi-scale project leads to an understanding of the carbon flux between terrestrial ecosystems and the lower atmosphere. Read more

A Burning Question

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

Evolving in the Presence of Fire

In the Far North, fire is critical for renewing the boreal forest. But changes in fire frequency or size may convert the forest from a carbon dioxide sink to a source of greenhouse gas emissions. 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

Visions of a Cloudy Continent

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

Modeling Earth’s Land Biosphere

A NASA-affiliated research team constructed a computer model of the Earth’s terrestrial biosphere that will teach us a great deal about the dynamic interactions between land plants and the lower atmosphere. 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

Floods: Using Satellites to Keep Our Heads Above Water

Scientists are using satellites to spot extreme floods, using the data they collect to create maps of flood risk. Read more

Should We Talk About the Weather? Improving Global Forecasts with BOREAS Research

One goal of of NASA’s Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) is to understand how changes in air temperature, moisture and carbon dioxide levels may impact the boreal ecosystem and what role the boreal forest plays in global-scale climate changes. 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

Mystery of the Missing Carbon

Scientists estimate that between 1 and 2 billion metric tons of carbon per year are "missing" from the global carbon budget. In a concerted effort to solve the mystery of the missing carbon, NASA led the interdisciplinary Boreal Ecosystem-Atmosphere Study (BOREAS) from 1994-97. Read more

At the Edge: Monitoring Glaciers to Watch Global Warming

Alpine glaciers are a good indicator of climate change. If the climate is getting warmer or drier, they will shrink. If it is getting colder or wetter, they tend to grow. 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