18 Oct 2013

Our planet viewed from space

Satellites play a vital role in providing information of what is going on around our planet – both in the skies and at the surface.

Nasa’s earth observation website has collections of these photographs which are updated on a daily basis.

With such a stunning collection of images available, I thought I would pull together some of the best ones and offer explanation as to what they are showing.

Colorado floods

During September, 17 counties in Colorado were hit by severe flooding, leaving six people dead, hundreds missing and causing damage estimated at $2bn.

The flooding was caused by a feed of tropical air from the south rising over the steep slopes of the Rocky mountains, leading to days of relentless torrential rain.

The top image below shows the South Platte river near Greeley, Colorado on 29 June and the bottom image the same area on the 17 September.



When comparing the images, it is clear just how much the river flooded, shown by the expanse of muddy waters spilling outwards either side of the river’s normal path.

Pakistan earthquake causing birth of new island

On 24 September, a major 7.7 magnitude earthquake hit western Pakistan, killing at least 350 people and leaving around 350,000 homeless.

When the earthquake occurred, it caused the formation of a new island, roughly 0.6 miles offshore of Gwadar. The US Geological Survey said that this was likely to be a pile of mud that was pushed up from the sea floor.

The top image below shows the area before the earthquake on 17 April and the bottom image afterwards on 26 September – clearly showing the newly formed island.



Typhoon Francisco

The swirl of cloud with a clearly defined eye at the centre in the image below is Typhoon Francisco. It skirted past Guam just a few days ago, but is now heading on a track that could take it towards Japan next week.


As the storm travels over warm ocean water, it will gain energy and gather strength, with a good chance of becoming a super typhoon.

The strongest winds in this storm are found within 40 miles of its centre, with the winds lessening in strength towards its periphery.

New South Wales wildfires

Intense heat and brisk winds has led to around 100 wildfires raging in New South Wales – around 35 of them burning out of control.

Temperatures in the 30s Celsius combined with wind gusts of around 50mph fanned the flames, creating challenging and dangerous conditions for fire fighters.

The image below shows the plumes of smoke heading towards the east coast, including the Sydney area, where smoke blocked out the sun and left an orange haze across the sky.


This selection of images is just one of many on the Nasa’s earth observatory website which you can find here.

Tweets by @liamdutton