For the third time in a decade, the winner of Tournament Earth hails from the Canary Islands.
In 2013, readers chose the El Hierro submarine eruption as the winner of our first tournament. A year later, an image of sunglint, winds, and waves (Trailing the Canaries) was voted the 2014 champion in a landslide. In 2022, readers loved the pairing of a photograph from the International Space Station and a false-color data view of the eruption at La Palma volcano. The image was a #8 seed in the fire bracket, and the underdog knocked off higher seeds in every round.
Ancient Greek, Hindu, and Buddhist philosophers saw fire, air, water and earth as the prime elements—the fundamental building blocks of the natural world. Modern science recognizes 118 elements (so far) and uses experimental methods for understanding the physical world. Yet water, air, earth, and fire still help us see the beauty, raw power, and dynamics of our planet.
From its origins, NASA has studied the atmosphere, the solid but moveable earth, fire and heat, and water in its various forms. We have done this in novel ways, using innovative tools to study Earth from the edge of the atmosphere to the ocean surface to formations within the crust. Using satellites and crewed spacecraft, we have looked at Earth in macrocosm and microcosm, from the flow of one mountain stream to the flow of jet streams.
Since 1999, Earth Observatory has published thousands of images of this awesome and ever-changing planet. Though the tournament is now finished, you can still click through to our results page and view elemental fire, air, water, and earth as scientists and astronauts can see them from space. Thank you for helping us narrow the field from 32 nominees down to one champion.