Results for: Water

Notes from the Field: Ship-Aircraft Bio-Optical Research (SABOR)

In the summer of 2014, scientists embarked on ship and aircraft expeditions between the U.S. East Coast and Bermuda in order to improve NASA's view of the oceans. Read more

World of Change: Coastline Change

The shoreline of Cape Cod provides a visual case study in the evolution and dynamic motion of barrier islands and spits. Read more

Notes from the Field: South Pacific Bio-optics Cruise 2014

Field data necessary for validating ocean color satellite data are sparse in many regions of the ocean. NASA scientists will travel over much of the South Pacific between March and May 2014 to fill in this data gap. Read more

Landsat 8 Delivering On Its Promises

It was built to extend a four-decade record of Earth observations. One year after launch, Landsat 8 has deepened the archives and our insights — not just of the land, but of the sea and sky. Here are some of our favorite images to date. Read more

Islands in the Sun

If the cold of winter is getting you down, take flight to some tropical islands. Here are a few of our favorites, as viewed from satellites and the International Space Station. We can take your mind, but you'll need your own travel agent to get your body there. Read more

Something Fishy in the Atlantic Night

There’s a city in the middle of the ocean…a city of fishing boats. Read more

Dusting the Virtues of Snow

Scientist Tom Painter examines the differences between pure and dirty snow. A rise in dust can be a critical influence on snow-fed water supplies in the American West. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Iowa Flood Studies

A field campaign called the Iowa Flood Studies (IFloodS) is taking place in eastern Iowa from May 1 to June 15, 2013. The goal is to evaluate how well rainfall data from the upcoming Global Precipitation Measurement (GPM) mission can be used for flood forecasting. GPM is scheduled for launch in early 2014. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Greenland Aquifer Expedition

NASA scientists return to Greenland, not to investigate the ice but to learn more about the water trapped within the ice. Read more

In a Warming World, the Storms May Be Fewer But Stronger

Extreme storms such as Hurricane Sandy, Snowmageddon, and the tornadoes of 2011 have prompted questions about whether climate change is affecting the intensity of weather. Satellites, statistics, and scientific models are teaching us a lot about what we know and don't know about severe storms. Read more

World of Change: Green Seasons of Maine

Not many places on Earth have year-round greenery and four distinct seasons. The images in this series show the four seasons of Maine, the most forest-covered state in the U.S.A. Read more

The Gravity of Water

Scientists are using novel measurements of gravity to gather indispensable information about Earth’s water supplies. The GRACE mission can see water flowing underground. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Salinity Processes in the Upper Ocean Regional Study (SPURS)

A group of scientists are headed to the saltiest spot in the North Atlantic Ocean. They will spend six weeks at sea studying what's driving changes in the salt content of the ocean and how these variations relate to an acceleration of the global water cycle and climate change. Read more

Looking Back on Ten Years of Aqua

Launched on May 4, 2002, NASA's Aqua satellite and its six instruments have provided a decade's worth of unprecedented views of our planet. Here are a few of our favorites. Read more

Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami: Looking Back from Space

In 2011, the fourth largest earthquake in history rocked the coast of Japan, spawning a devastating tsunami. Satellites and scientists had an unprecedented view of both. This gallery offers a glimpse of the broad scale of the destruction, of the recovery a year later, and of some new scientific understanding that emerged. Read more

IceBridge: Building a Record of Earth’s Changing Ice, One Flight at a Time

NASA is sending a fleet of airplanes to the ends of the Earth for the next several years to figure out how and why polar ice is changing. Read more

2011 Hurricane Season and NASA Research: An Interview with Scott Braun

With the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season approaching its peak, a NASA meteorologist explores the key questions in hurricane research. Read more

Earth Matters Blog

Earth is an amazing planet, and the one that matters most to us. Let's have a conversation about it. Read more

As the Seasons Change, Will the Plankton?

To understand the planet’s biggest food source—phytoplankton—and perhaps its most important sink for carbon dioxide, you’ve got to get out on the water. Read more

World of Change: Global Temperatures

The world is getting warmer, whatever the cause. According to an analysis by NASA scientists, the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975. Read more

The Water Cycle

Landscape sculptor. Climate driver. Life supporter. Water is the most important molecule on our planet. Read more

Gulf of Mexico Oil Slick Images: Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ explains why oil is more obvious in some satellite images than others and why the Earth Observatory doesn't post new images of the oil slick every day. Read more

What are Phytoplankton?

Microscopic plant-like organisms called phytoplankton are the base of the marine food web, and they play a key role in removing carbon dioxide from the air. Read more

Global Warming

Global warming is happening now, and scientists are confident that greenhouse gases are responsible. To understand what this means for humanity, it is necessary to understand what global warming is, how scientists know it's happening, and how they predict future climate. Read more

World of Change: Collapse of the Larsen-B Ice Shelf

In early 2002, scientists monitoring daily satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula watched in amazement as almost the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered and collapsed in just over one month. They had never witnessed such a large area disintegrate so rapidly. Read more

World of Change: El Niño, La Niña, and Rainfall

For many people, El Niño and La Niña mean floods or drought, but the events are actually a warming or cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean that impacts rainfall. These sea surface temperature and rainfall anomaly images show the direct correlation between ocean temperatures and rainfall during El Niño and La Niña events. Read more

World of Change: Severe Storms

This collection of images featuring the strongest hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon from any ocean during each year of the past decade includes storms both famous—or infamous—and obscure. Read more

Notes from the Field Blog: Journey to Galapagos

Following in Darwin's footsteps, NASA oceanographer Gene Feldman explores the remarkable Galapagos Islands. Read more

World of Change: Global Biosphere

Earth would not be the planet that it is without its biosphere, the sum of its life. This series of images illustrates the variations in the average productivity of the global biosphere from 1999 to 2008. Read more

World of Change: Antarctic Sea Ice

Because of differences in geography and climate, Antarctica sea ice extent is larger than the Arctic’s in winter and smaller in summer. Since 1979, Antarctica’s sea ice has increased slightly, but year-to-year fluctuations are large. Read more

World of Change: Arctic Sea Ice

NASA satellites have monitored Arctic sea ice since 1978. Starting in 2002, they observed a sharp decline in sea ice extent. Read more

Sea Ice

Polar sea ice grows and shrinks dramatically each year, driven by seasonal cycles. Habitat for wildlife and harbinger of changing climate, sea ice offers scientists important clues about the state of our planet. Read more

An Ocean Breeze: Mapping Brazil’s Offshore Wind Power Potential

Searching for alternative sources of energy for his country, one student turned to a NASA satellite to assess the feasibility of offshore wind power in Southeast Brazil. Read more

Correcting Ocean Cooling

Scientists revise their conclusion that the ocean has cooled since 2003. Read more

Rapid Retreat: Ice Shelf Loss along Canada's Ellesmere Coast

Beginning in late July 2008, the remaining ice shelves along the northern coast of Canada's Ellesmere Island underwent rapid retreat, losing a total of 214 square kilometers (83 square miles). Read more

The Ocean's Carbon Balance

The amount of carbon dioxide that the ocean can take from the atmosphere is controlled by both natural cycles and human activity. Read more

Disintegration: Antarctic Warming Claims Another Ice Shelf

In late February 2008, the Wilkins Ice Shelf on the Antarctic Peninsula disintegrated, an indication of warming temperatures in the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) sensors on NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites provided some of the earliest evidence of the disintegration. Read more

Something Under the Ice is Moving

Satellites measurements of ice sheet elevation reveal a complex network of subglacial lakes in Antarctica. As water flows from lake to lake, the ice sheet above them rises and falls. Read more

Remote River Reconnaissance

Elevation data collected from the space shuttle help map Earth's rivers in remote regions. Read more

Arctic Reflection: Clouds Replace Snow and Ice as Solar Reflector

Using satellite observations of sea ice and clouds, scientists discover that Earth’s poles are still effective reflectors for incoming sunlight. Read more

Hurricanes: The Greatest Storms on Earth

Few things in nature can compare to the destructive force of a hurricane. Called the greatest storm on Earth, a hurricane is capable of annihilating coastal areas with sustained winds of 155 mph or higher and intense areas of rainfall and a storm surge. In fact, during its life cycle a hurricane can expend as much energy as 10,000 nuclear bombs! Read more

Rise and Fall: Satellites Reveal Full Length of Tsunami-Generating Earthquake

Ambiguous seismic data and a spotty GPS network initially frustrated geologists mapping the length of the tsunami-generating earthquake that struck Indonesia in 2004. Caltech grad student Aron Meltzner decided to improvise: he mapped the rupture using satellite images of coral reefs and coastlines that rose or sank during the quake. Read more

Ask-A-Scientist

Questions from visitors to the Earth Observatory and answers from scientists. Read more

Paleoclimatology: Explaining the Evidence

Scientists' efforts to explain the paleoclimate evidence-not just the when and where of climate change, but the how and why-have produced some of the most significant theories of how the Earth's climate system works. Read more

Earth's Big Heat Bucket

The Earth now absorbs more energy than it emits back into space, and the excess heat is hiding in the ocean. Read more

Forest on the Threshold

NASA data reveal that Arctic forests are getting browner as temperatures rise. The downward trend in the forests' health may be a sign that global warming is impacting the forests sooner than scientists predicted. Read more

Lake Victoria's Falling Waters

By early 2006, the Jason-1 satellite showed that water levels on Africa's Lake Victoria had dropped to levels not seen in decades, leaving the millions who depend on the lake high and dry. Read more

Ancient Crystals Suggest Earlier Ocean

Tiny, ancient mineral crystals from the arid shrublands of Western Australia suggest Earth's oceans developed far earlier than scientists used to think. Read more

Winds Connect Snow to Sea

Explosive blooms of plant life in the Arabian Sea between 1997 and 2003 may be the result of a significant dip in snow cover thousands of miles away in Europe and Asia. Read more

Paleoclimatology: Climate Close-up

Both tree rings and similar rings in ocean coral can tell scientists about rainfall and temperatures during a single growing season. Read more

Paleoclimatology: The Ice Core Record

For six weeks every summer between 1989 and 1993, Alley and other scientists pushed columns of ice along the science assembly line, labeling and analyzing the snow for information about past climate Read more

Drought and Deluge Change Chesapeake Bay Biology

In September 2008, after years of population declines, NOAA declared the Chesapeake Bay’s crab fishery a federal disaster (press release). This article from 2005 describes how NASA scientists used satellite observations to study how heavy rain and drought affect the amount of pollution that enters the bay. Read more

The Art of Science

Astronauts onboard the International Space Station (ISS) have many tasks, but a consistent favorite is taking photographs of Earth. Read more

Blue Marble Next Generation

12 months of high-resolution global true color satellite imagery. Read more

Paleoclimatology: A Record from the Deep

Containing fossilized microscopic plants and animals and bits of dust swept from the continents, the layers of sludge on the ocean floor provide information for scientists trying to piece together the climates of the past. Read more

Operation Antarctica

When Program Managers of the U.S. Antarctic Program had to figure out how to get supplies to research camps in Antarctica, they turned to NASA sensors for information. Read more

Time on the Shelf

Twenty-five years of NASA scientists' research in Antarctica and Greenland show that even huge ice sheets can change more quickly than scientists thought, causing sea level to rise. Read more

Paleoclimatology: The Oxygen Balance

Oxygen is one of the most significant keys to deciphering past climates. Read more

Cheyenne and Catarina: Breaking Records for Sailing and Storms

When the crew of the Cheyenne set out to break the round-the-world sailing record in March 2004, they would never have guessed what an unusual storm they would meet along the way. Read more

High Water: Building a Global Flood Atlas

For more than a decade, geologist Bob Brakenridge has been pioneering the use of satellite data for monitoring floods. Read more

Humans and Climate Destroy Reef Ecosystem

Using fossilized coral reefs, Nerilie Abram constructed a 7,000-year climate history of cool/warm cycles in the Indian Ocean. In the course of her research she discovered that wildfires in Indonesia during the 1997-98 El Nino indirectly killed the Mentawai Reef. Read more

Life in Icy Waters

When you think of polynyas as a concentrated food source for larger organisms, then it becomes clear how important they are. Read more

Breakup of the Ward Hunt Ice Shelf

In the summer of 2002, graduate student Derek Mueller made an unwelcome discovery: the biggest ice shelf in the Arctic was breaking apart Read more

Weighing Earth's Water from Space

Launched in 2002, a pair of identical satellites that make up NASA's Gravity Recovery And Climate Experiment (GRACE) are tackling the problem in an unexpected way: they are weighing Earth's fresh water from space. Serving as a sort of "divining rod" in space that moves in response to a powerful, fundamental force of nature--gravity--the satellites respond to changes in Earth's gravitation field that signal shifts in the movement of water a cross and under Earth's surface. Read more

Drought Lowers Lake Mead

In the space of just three years, water levels in Lake Mead have fallen more than sixty feet due to sustained drought. Landsat images show the extent of the change to the lake's shoreline. Read more

Dwindling Arctic Ice

Since the 1970s, Arctic sea ice has been melting at the rate of 9 percent per decade. NASA researcher Josefino Comiso points to an accelerating warming trend as a primary cause and discusses how global climate change may be influencing the shrinking Arctic ice cap. Read more

Little Islands, Big Wake

The Hawaiian Islands interrupt the trade winds that blow across the Pacific Ocean, with far-reaching effects on ocean currents and atmospheric circulation. Read more

Watching the World Go By

Space Station Science Officer Ed Lu describes what it is like to look at the Earth over the course of an orbit. His descriptions are accompanied by digital photographs of Earth he has taken and transmitted to the ground during his mission. Read more

Double Vision

For the first time, scientists can rely on not one, but two satellites to monitor ocean surface topography, or sea level. TOPEX/Poseidon and Jason-1, launched nearly 10 years apart, are now engaged in a tandem mission, creating a spaceborne ocean observatory that provides scientists, climate modelers, and forecasters with nearly global coverage of the world's ocean surface at an unprecedented level of precision. Read more

The Incredible Glowing Algae

The latest development in oceanographic remote sensing enables researchers to detect the glow, or phytoplankton fluorescence, from chlorophyll. Read more

Searching for Atlantic Rhythms?

All over the globe there are relationships between the conditions of the atmosphere and oceans that affect weather and climate at great distances. The North Atlantic Oscillation is one of these teleconnections, linking the temperature of the North Atlantic Ocean with winter weather in North America and Europe. Read more

A Delicate Balance: Signs of Change in the Tropics

While NASA climate scientists were reviewing radiation data emanating from the tropics simply to test existing notions, they uncovered a phenomenon no one expected. They found that progressively more thermal radiation has been escaping the atmosphere above the tropics and progressively less sunlight has been reflecting off of the clouds. Read more

Vanishing Ice

Konrad Steffen arrived on the Greenland Ice Sheet for the 2002 fieldwork season and immediately observed that something significant was happening in the Arctic. Pools of water already spotted the ice sur face, and melting was occurring where it never had before. Read more

Teaching Old Data New Tricks

Researchers have discovered that scatterometer data could provide important information on a variety of other surfaces, such as forests and ice, which became the basis for global climate change study applications. Read more

Fish Kill in the Gulf of Oman

When fish began dying in droves off the coast of Oman, local media reported it was due to contaminated ballast water from a U.S. tanker while authorities feared that a toxic algal bloom was to blame. Neither was true. Using data from NASA's Terra and SeaWinds missions, a team of scientists demonstrated the fish kill was due to a series of natural environmental changes. Read more

Space-based Ice Sight

Data from recent NASA satellite missions offer scientists new views of Antarctica, and new opportunities to understand how its enormous ice sheet might respond to future climate change. Read more

Hunting Dangerous Algae from Space

Although red tides have been reported in Florida since 1530, scientists are still struggling to understand their cause, to predict their occurrence, and to find a way to lessen their impact. Now, a group of scientists in Florida is using remote sensing data and offshore monitoring to find and track harmful algal blooms as they form and spread. Read more

Fragment of its Former Shelf

Scientists investigate the 2002 Larsen Ice Shelf breakup with the help of MODIS imagery. Read more

Hurricane Field Studies

The Third Convection and Moisture Experiment (CAMEX3) has provided forecasters with a more realistic storm picture. Read more

Clouds in the Balance

In 1998, atmospheric scientists discovered a significant change in cloud vertical structure triggered by the strongest El Niño on record. Read more

Measure for Measure

Governments and policy makers turn to science to better understand the impacts of global sea level rise on coastal cities. Read more

Ultraviolet Radiation: How It Affects Life on Earth

Stratospheric ozone depletion due to human activities has resulted in an increase of ultraviolet radiation on the Earth's surface. The article describes some effects on human health, aquatic ecosystems, agricultural plants and other living things, and explains how much ultraviolet radiation we are currently getting and how we measure it. Read more

Reverberations of the Pacific Warm Pool

Over the past several decades, scientists have uncovered a number of El Nino-like climate anomalies across the globe. One of the most recent to be discovered takes place in the Indo-Pacific warm pool. This body of water, which spans the western waters of the equatorial Pacific to the eastern Indian Ocean, holds the warmest seawaters in the world. Over a period of roughly two decades, the warm pool's average annual temperatures increase and then decrease like a beacon. These oscillations may affect the climate in regions as far away as the southern United States and may be powerful enough to broaden the extent of El Nino. Read more

In the Eyewall of the Storm

Scientists have sought a greater understanding of the hurricane intensification process to improve forecasting techniques and decrease the radius of coastal evacuations. A new study using CAMEX-3 hurricane data reveals the role of "hot towers" in increasing a storm's fury. Read more

John Martin

John Martin devoted his career to understanding the basic chemical processes that govern life in the ocean. His famous ‘iron hypothesis’ not only changed the way in which scientists view the ocean, but also introduced a controversial method for lowering carbon dioxide emissions in the atmosphere. Read more

Watching Plants Dance to the Rhythms of the Ocean

NASA scientists developed a new data set that enables them to observe the teleconnections between sea surface temperature anomalies and patterns of plant growth on a global scale. Read more

When the Dust Settles

African dust can both benefit and harm Caribbean coral reefs. Read more

Amazing Atolls of the Maldives

Though scientists have been studying atolls at least since the mid-1800s, many mysteries remain about exactly how they form and what factors determine their shape. Using satellite imagery collected by Landsat 7, scientists are attempting to discern if monsoons played a role in shaping the Maldives. Read more

Forecasting Fury

Experts predict a period of elevated storm activity during the next 15 years. However, data from the SeaWinds instrument aboard NASA's QuikSCAT satellite could allow researchers to detect potential hurricanes up to two days earlier than with traditional forecasting methods. Read more

Mapping the Decline of Coral Reefs

Coral reefs represent some of the densest and most varied ecosystems on Earth. Over the past 50 years the health of these reefs have been declining. Using high-resolution satellite imagery, scientists are locating the reefs that are in the most trouble. Read more

Lovely, Dark and Deep

Mysteries of ocean mixing yield to TOPEX/POSEIDON. Read more

Disintegration of the Ninnis Glacier Tongue

Many processes that shape the Earth's landscape happen too slowly to be witnessed in a human lifetime. But analysis of satellite imagery shows that the large glacier tongue of the Ninnis Glacier on the coast of East Antarctica has disintegrated, changing the shape of the coastline almost overnight. Read more

Seeing into the Heart of a Hurricane

NASA’s Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission helps scientist study hurricanes and predict their paths by looking inside the storms. Read more

Ice and Sky

The availability of the Canadian RADARSAT Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) data and new algorithms allow the detection of open water in polar ice from space. Read more

Polynyas, CO2, and Diatoms in the Southern Ocean

Climate models predict a dramatic shift in phytoplankton communities that live in the icy waters of the Southern Ocean. Read more

Tracking Eddies that Feed the Sea

Scientists are using sea surface height data collected by satellites to monitor eddies (vortices of water) in the Gulf of Alaska. These eddies are important because they carry nutrients from coastal waters into the open ocean, thereby nourishing the phytoplankton (microscopic plants) that form the base of the ocean food chain. Read more

Climate Clues in the Ice

Newly available upward-looking sonar shows significant decreases in sea ice thickness in recent decades. Read more

Illuminating Photosynthesis in the Arabian Sea

Researchers define an ocean’s seasonal cycle. Read more

Listening to Raindrops: Using Underwater Microphones to Measure Ocean Rainfall

Scientists have developed a new method to measure rainfall in the open ocean with underwater microphones. By measuring rainfall over the oceans the scientists will be able to improve global climate models. Read more

Hurricane Floyd: Fearing the Worst

In the wake of Hurricane Floyd, polluted runoff threatened North Carolina’s rivers and beaches. Read more

On Thin Ice

Satellite data fill the gaps in shore-based ice observations. Read more

Hurricane Floyd's Lasting Legacy - Introduction

Hurricane Floyd struck eastern North Carolina on September 15, 1999. In it's wake the storm left polluted floodwaters and sediment-choked rivers. Read more

Snow and Ice Extent

In December 1998, field support crews had to find a way to locate regions of sea ice dense enough to allow the U.S. Coast Guard ice breaker Polar Star to dock. Read more

Polar Paradox

Global warming could lead to another ice age. Read more

Global Temperature Trends - Continued Global Warmth in 1999

Global surface temperatures in 1999 fell back from the record setting high level of 1998, which was the warmest year in the period of instrumental data. Read more

Upper Crust

Krill fight for survival as sea ice melts. Read more

Eye on the Ocean

El Niño/Southern Oscillation events have become easier to predict, thanks to the TOPEX/Poseidon satellite. Read more

El Nino's Extended Family Introduction

Cyclic patterns in the ocean and atmosphere shape global weather. Read more

The Color of El Nino

Scientists found a way to detect the end of El Niño and the beginning of La Niña by studying the growth of phytoplankton (tiny marine plants). Read more

Benjamin Franklin

Famous for studying lightning by flying a kite in a thunderstorm, American Benjamin Franklin also contributed to early scientific knowledge of weather, climate, and oceanography. Read more

QuikSCAT

QuikSCAT provides climatologists, meteorologists and oceanographers with daily, detailed snapshots of the winds swirling above the world’s oceans. Read more

Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission

The Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM), is the first mission dedicated to measuring tropical and subtropical rainfall through microwave and visible infrared sensors, and includes the first spaceborne rain radar. Read more

Ocean and Climate Fact Sheet

The Earth’s ocean and atmosphere are locked in an embrace. As one changes, so does the other. Read more

La Niña Fact Sheet

The phenomenon known as El Niño is sometimes reverses, leading to strong trade winds, colder than normal water off the coast of Peru, and warmer than normal water near Australia. This cold counterpart to El Niño is known as La Niña. Read more

What is El Nino? Fact Sheet

During an El Niño, the relationships between winds and ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean change, with an impact on weather conditions around the world. Read more

What is a Coccolithophore? Fact Sheet

Coccolithophores are one-celled marine plants that surround themselves with a microscopic plating made of limestone (calcite). Read more

Polar Ice Fact Sheet

Polar ice consists of sea ice, ice sheets, and glaciers. Extending over vast areas of the polar regions, this ice provides some early clues about climate change. Read more

Changing Currents in the Bering Sea

During the summers of 1997 and 1998, a type of one-celled microscopic plant changed the color of the Bering Sea from its natural deep blue to a shimmering aquamarine. These plants, called coccolithophores, present a unique problem for researchers because a massive bloom of the organisms has never before been observed in the Bering Sea. Read more

Terra Spacecraft Fact Sheet

On December 18, 1999, NASA launched a new flagship, the Terra satellite, to begin collecting a new 18-year global data set on which to base future scientific investigations about our complex home planet. Read more