On these maps, vegetation is pictured as a scale, or index, of greenness. Greenness is based on several factors: the number and type of plants, how leafy they are, and how healthy they are. In places where foliage is dense and plants are growing quickly, the index is high, represented in dark green. Regions where few plants grow have a low vegetation index, shown in tan. The index is based on measurements taken by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. Areas where the satellite did not collect data are gray.
The aerosol maps show average monthly aerosol amounts around the world based on observations from the MODIS sensor on NASA's Terra satellite. Satellite measurements of aerosols, called aerosol optical thickness, are based on the fact that the particles change the way the atmosphere reflects and absorbs visible and infrared light. An optical thickness of less than 0.1 (palest yellow) indicates a crystal clear sky with maximum visibility, whereas a value of 1 (reddish brown) indicates very hazy conditions.
View, download, or analyze more of these data from NASA Earth Observations (NEO):
Aerosol Optical Depth