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Earth Matters

May Puzzler Answer: Manning Islands

May 27th, 2014 by Adam Voiland


We do have a few Trekkies on staff, but we didn’t actually have a Star Trek communicator in mind when we selected the May Puzzler. Nor were we trying to puzzle you by showing something from under a microscope. However, we did intend for the May puzzler to be tough because last month it was solved in a matter of minutes.

With that in mind, we choose an area that looks quite different on Google Maps than it does to NASA satellites. If you look carefully, you’ll notice that Google Maps imagery can be spotty in some areas, particularly in the high latitudes and over the oceans. For instance, compare how Nunavut’s Manning Islandsthe answer to the puzzlerlook on Google Maps (below) compared to the Advanced Land Imager (ALI) on July 26, 2012 (above).


Despite the hundreds of answers we received, nobody noticed that the Manning Islands were hidden away amidst all the sea ice. However, a few readers came close. On Facebook, Owen Anfinson hypothesized that the image showed pack ice in the Arctic during the summer, even pointing out that it was most likely sea ice near land because of all the sediment-covered ice.  Meanwhile, Laura Yeo guessed that the image showed “rapid ice melt in the Northwest Passage in the summer of 2012.”  Nice work, Owen and Laura.  For more more details about the Manning Islands, read the Image of the Day we published on May 23, 2014.

For some background about the satellite imagery on Google Earth, try this post from the Google Earth Blog. For more details about ALI, see the feature story we published in 2010. As a bonus for blog readers, you’ll find a broader view of Foxe Basin as seen by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on August 1, 2002, below.



Colorado River Reaches the Sea of Cortez

May 22nd, 2014 by Adam Voiland



When the Minute 319 “pulse flow” began in March 2014, it was not clear whether the effort would be enough to reconnect the Colorado River with the Sea of Cortez. Some hydrologists thought there might be just enough water; others were less optimistic. It turns out the optimists were right, though just barely. For the first time in sixteen years, the Colorado River was reunited with the Sea of Cortez on May 15, 2014.

While scientists involved in the effort point out the goal was always to recharge groundwater and deliver water to special ecological restoration zones, environmental advocates haven’t been shy about basking in the symbolic importance of the river reaching the sea. “Now that we’ve witnessed the Colorado flowing in its delta, we know that it is possible to conjure the river back to life where the world thought it was dead.  It’s a resurrection that we won’t soon forget, and a vision of what could be in the future,” wrote Jennifer Pitt, the director of the Environmental Defense Fund’s Colorado River Project in an article published by National Geographic

Francisco Zamora, director of the Sonoran Institute’s Colorado River Delta Legacy Program, took these photograph from a Lighthawk-supported plane on May 15, 2014. See the Sonoran Institute’s Facebook page for more images. To learn more about the scientific rational behind the pulse flow, see this EOS article. View satellite imagery of the pulse flow here.


May Puzzler

May 19th, 2014 by Adam Voiland


Every month we offer a puzzling satellite image here on Earth Matters. The April 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 about the geological, meteorological, or human processes that have played a role in molding the landscape. 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.