Earth Matters

September Puzzler

September 29th, 2014 by Adam Voiland


UPDATE (October  3, 2014) – The answer to this puzzler was posted here.

Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The September 2014 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what part of the world we are looking at, when the image was acquired, what the image shows, 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  day to give others a chance to play.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved some 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.

Good luck!

55 Responses to “September Puzzler”

  1. John T says:

    I can’t find where this is, but my guess is that it shows sunglint off a lake or ocean in the northern hemisphere. The shore at image right has a river mouth, offshore at image bottom are two small islands, and offshore in the bottom right corner is ice.

    • Jeff Junior says:

      Ecosystem 101! How our ecosystem (mother nature) works!

      The darker accumulation of green color at lower elevations is due to several processes (plant-life [photosynthesis, growth & decay], rainfall (water transport [evaporation, cloud saturation & precipitation], terrain excavation [runoff & river erosion] working together as a complete environmental system.

      During overabundant sunny/rainy periods as plant-life dies their (green) chlorophyll is released by dead plants as algae that gets washed into our river systems by rainfall. As the algae gets moved from higher mountain elevations to lower river deltas by rains routed by mountain runoffs & river systems, the algae accumulates at the lower elevations appearing a darker-green at the lower elevations. The further down hill algae is moved the greater the algae accumulation becomes giving a view from space of a much darker green color at the lower elevations.

      Life from death: Many species lives depend on the overabundance of algae found in river deltas.

    • Austin D says:

      Its got to be lake erie

  2. Dan Adler says:

    I can’t tell from the shot which way is north. The image in the lower right is definitely a coastal city of some size. Above that is what looks like a high altitude lake with two rivers flowing into the sea (or an even larger lake, although I doubt that). The tides tend toward the bottom of the screen, as evidenced by what appear to the the striations of the seabed. I can’t tell if the bumps of land at the bottom of the screen appear to be the continuation of the coast (where the city is) at the lower right.

  3. Josh says:

    I dont know where it is but what it is is algae from nitrates that have run off through rivers and streams into the larger body of water. It is also in the upper right of the picture in some type of swamp or lake.

  4. Joanna Wallington says:

    that looks like the Nile delta on the right so something strange about Lake Qaroun, I think it had been dry and this shows water heading into it?

  5. Alen says:

    On this image we can see damage through excessive use of fertylizer, creating extra algee that kill other organism by starving it by absorbin all oxigen, in my opinion this is a yellow river delta in China but also could be mississipi delta. Either way caused by the man.

  6. Cristiano cardarelli says:

    It is very large and there is quite some current moving fast. It is brown which means shallow and reddish… The green could be detriti coming out of some forest. I would hazard the estuary of Rio de la Plata? The coast there in the (I assume) north east corner would be Uruguay?

  7. Amanda W. says:

    I believe we are looking at the vegitation growth in the black sea.

  8. steveo says:


  9. Shannon Ross-Albers says:

    I wonder if it’s Lake Erie in the western basin near Toledo? There were several days this summer, the citizens of Toledo could not drink their tap water due to the excess of toxic green algae.

    • wrf1984 says:

      That’s a good thought but look at the bit of civilization in the lower right. It looks like settlement in an arid area. Also I’m not positive the great mass of the area is water, although I suppose it could be a phytoplankton bloom.

  10. Daniel says:

    so I guess u used a filter to take all blue out. I think the brown/beige parts are water and that the green stuff is either a coral reef or plankton in the seas.

  11. Patricia Malone says:

    Seattle, Washington, light images off the ocean has the sun sets.

  12. Joaquin Willim says:

    Perhaps algae proliferation in Laka Valencia, Estado Carabobo in Venezuela.?

  13. garima says:

    Iam playing first time and not able to identify it. but ithink it some hilly area near colarado river.

  14. Timothy says:

    Geothermal pollutants using a green highlighter.

  15. Timothy says:


  16. Aman Khan says:

    I think the greenish color of water is due to methane gas emits from the marine plants, the place in picture seems to be near Bermuda.

  17. Rana says:

    I think it’s an ocean with the sun reflecting back this bright green color, i can figure out that there is a current water flow or small waves if you like.

  18. 田中眞吾 shingo tanaka says:

    田中 眞吾 shingo tanaka です。

  19. Joe McCaffrey says:

    looks like Salt Lake

  20. Squirrel Girl says:

    An algal bloom along the coast of the Yellow Sea?

  21. Squirrel Girl says:

    Oh, and why it’s interesting–because it’s due to increased fertilizer run-off.

  22. Professor says:

    this picture is for Atlantic ocean the green color is a filter for the cloud makes it green.

  23. Ela says:

    I suppose it’s Amazon rivers delta on Brasilian east cost.

  24. LIOSIS says:

    Probably is the volcano ash from Japan

  25. Lord Wobbly says:

    Celtic fans in Seville for the UEFA Cup Final on 21st May 2003?

  26. jaya says:

    I guess its an an algal bloom, washed ashore,the landscape is a gulf,cant say which one during dawn..The huge blobs have more density on the sea side than the shore,shows it is moving into the shore from the sea,and the scalloping on the land side of the mass in question also shows the tides have only spread it but cannot move it fully onto shore probably because it is dense.

  27. Tonya says:

    Looks to me as if the green contrasts the depths in water…
    I think I see a ship… lol.. but I do off the coast !
    As to where I assume in the water’s of Persian Gulf ? Hence the ship 😉

  28. Sean C says:

    My guess is that it is tree pollen either washed or blown down from a more densely vegetated area.

  29. Robert says:

    Where it is, i do not know. What it looks like appears to be a large area of flood waters

  30. José L. says:

    I can’t say where is it but seems to be the seabed, the green color
    Is a kind of algae or contamination cause by the water coming out
    From the river on the right hand side.

  31. Rebecca says:

    Aurora borealis?

  32. Laura Carter says:

    It’s the sun reflecting off an oil slick in the Gulf of Mexico from that BP oil spill in 2010

  33. Carmen L. Barajas says:

    I think it is part of Aral sea that having contamination problems and is also reducing the amount of water every year. Its area is now smaller that it used to be years ago. The problem started, when two rivers that used to give the water to the Aral sea were derived in order to use the water for agricultural purposes.

  34. Gary says:

    The florida everglades by miami in the winter

  35. Sinclair Sheers says:


  36. Rob Baxter says:

    Could this be a hyperspectral image of phytoplankton or blue-green algae in Lake Erie, taken from the ISS?

  37. willow says:

    Green sea turtles converging on the beach.

  38. Rafael Maya says:

    West north Africa

  39. Veronica Nordeen says:

    Could this be in Africa, along the edge of the Sahara Desert? Just discovered the Puzzler. What sites do others use for reference? Is there a way to view the image in another program? I’d like to be able to zoom in. Or, what Lord Wobbly said.

  40. jason dreimanis says:

    My Guess
    A Desert In The Middle East
    Chemical Haze

  41. Lyn Peart says:

    I think this picture shows large areas of algae in the Yelllow Sea off the coast of China.
    I believe it is caused by anthropogenic pollution and it must be causing havoc to marine life 🙁

  42. Sukanta says:

    the place near Croatia in urope

  43. Yashpal Gogia says:

    II the Antartica region is shown, where the green part is showing the effect of Ozone hole.

  44. Susan McLoughlin says:

    The area around the shrinking Aral Sea?

  45. Jason Lumley says:

    Off the coast of Toledo Ohio. The algae plumes fro this summer causing toledos water to be undrinkable.

  46. Nafisah says:

    Maybe it depicted the flood of Yangtze River in China (near Shanghai)?

  47. eylul malkoc says:

    I think this image shows a part of a river with a little bit of coastline on the right and down side of the scene. We can say that river contains algea/ There is also a small island on the left side of the image. The water seems flowing quite strong towards to coast this made me to think of a flood as well.

  48. Vladimir says:

    Cyanobacteria bloom on Lake Erie, turning bright green near the surface.Every summer as temperatures rise, “blooms” of cyanobacteria like the one in Grand Lake St. Marys develop in lakes and rivers across the country, turning waters intense green, and coating swaths of their surfaces with putrid-smelling blue-green algae that looks like pea soup. The blooms occur in nearly every state, peaking in August and September,

  49. Ben Aoufa says:

    Gulf of Mexico after the infamous BP oil spill?

  50. Felipe Verde says:

    Guessing that we are seeing auroral glint off melting sea ice perhaps off the coast of Novaya Zemla (Но́вая Земля́).

  51. Chris Mentrek says:

    Hello from Lake Erie!

    Wow, this one had me completely stumped.

    I live here on Lake Erie — we don’t have any coastline that looks like the puzzle image. There really aren’t any significant river deltas leading into the Lake. Two other clues that this isn’t Lake Erie:

    – In the image, there’s a gap between the urban areas and the coast
    – The image doesn’t show any docks or piers extending into the water

    My guess was that it was a river delta someplace. I checked a lot of maps of the U.S. Gulf of Mexico coast, maps of Vietnam, maps of the Amazon — NONE of them matched the puzzle image.

    Thanks for posting a challenging image! Whew!