NASA’s Terra satellite’s first view of northeastern Japan in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami reveal extensive flooding along the coast. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired the top image of the Sendai region on March 12, 2011, at 10:30 a.m. The lower image, taken by Terra MODIS on February 26, 2011, is provided as a point of reference.
Water is black or dark blue in these images. It is difficult to see the coastline in the March 12 image, but a thin green line outlines the shore. This green line is higher-elevation land that is above water, presumably preventing the flood of water from returning to the sea. The flood indicator on the lower image illustrates how far inland the flood extends.
Both images were made with infrared and visible light, a combination that increases the contrast between muddy water and land. Plant-covered land is green, while snow-covered land is pale blue. Clouds are white and pale blue. The paved surfaces in the city of Sendai colors it brown.
MODIS detected a fire burning near the shore north of Sendai. The fire is marked with a red box. It is also surrounded by floods.
A heavy black plume of smoke streams southeast from Sendai, Japan, in this photo-like image from March 12, 2011. The smoke likely originated from a fire burning in an oil refinery in the wake of the massive earthquake that struck the city on March 11.