21 Jan 2015

Five stunning images of earth from space

As we go about our daily lives on the ground, satellites orbit our planet, capturing detailed images of how the earth’s surface is changing over time.

Nasa’s Earth Observatory puts the most interesting images on its website, allowing us to see amazing sights, from volcanoes erupting, to dangerous hurricanes.

I’d thought I’d pull together some of the best images from the past month and describe what they show.

Boxing Day #uksnow

Despite the UK not having a white Christmas in 2014, the weather delivered the goods the following day in some places.

The image below from Nasa’s aqua satellite shows a blanket of snow hugging the rugged hills of north Wales and northern England, as well as the flatter parts of the Midlands.


You can clearly see the dendritic pattern in the snow cover over the hills, carved by the green, snowless valleys below.

Oil fire in Libya

At the end of December 2014, satellites captured the image below from above Libya, showing an oil fire.


A large plume of thick black smoke emanates from the point of the fire, before being carried north eastwards across the southern Mediterranean Sea by the wind.

Cloud streets over the Black Sea

The image below was taken on 8 January 2015, showing cloud streets stretching southwards across the Black Sea.


They are caused when cold air from Ukraine blew across the relatively warm water, causing the air to become unstable, rising to form clouds.

The clouds get bigger in the direction in which the wind blows, forming distinct lines – hence the name cloud streets.

Dust storm off west Africa

The image below taken off the west coast of Africa on 14 January 2015, shows a plume of dust stretching out across the Atlantic Ocean.


A combination of dry air and a brisk wind whipped dust up from the Saharan, before pushing it westwards over Senegal and Mauritania.

From the surface looking up, this would have given some hazy looking skies, as well as colourful sunsets, caused by the dust scattering the sun’s light.

Iceland lava flows

The spectacular image below from 6 January 2015 has been created by combining shortwave infrared, near infrared, and red light from Nasa’s Landsat 8 satellite.


It shows lava flows that have gushed from fissures just north of Iceland’s largest glacier, Vatnajökull, since August 2014.

Steam and sulphur dioxide appears white, newly-formed basaltic rock black, and fresh lava bright orange.

You can view many more images of earth from space on Nasa’s Earth Observatory website. I also post some images on Twitter – @liamdutton

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