The oceans’ deep blue dominates most Earth images taken from space. But NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) have a new video that makes Earth’s green the starring attraction. The National Polar-orbiting Operational Environmental Satellite System (NPOESS) is the latest generation of low-earth-orbit environmental satellites. Launched in October 2011, the Suomi satellite captures observations and data from about 800 kilometers above the surface, orbiting every 102 minutes. NOAA is releasing images that depict the dynamic, shifting shades of green rain forests, brown deserts and white mountaintops that color the planet’s landmasses through the year.
They make a cool video, but NOAA uses the images and data to create a vegetation index. Using this data, scientists see how the land responds to weather and seasonal changes, allowing them to forecast weather and ecosystem transformation. In turn, this information can form the basis for better land-use decisions.
The data contribute to forecasts of severe weather, such as heat waves, monsoon intensity and snowfall. Pixel-by-pixel analysis of vegetation changes over time gives early warning for drought, fire conditions or even malaria outbreaks in sub-Saharan Africa.