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Goddard Year In Review: Earth Science
These stories, images and videos represent some of Goddard's Earth science highlights in 2011.

Global Temperature Records in Close Agreement (01.13.11)

Climate data from multiple institutions supports NASA's findings: 2010 tied 2005 as the warmest year in the 131-year instrumental record.

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GISS global climate data graphic

MODIS image of Feb 2011 snowstorm

Monster Winter Storm Affects 30 States (02.01.11)

It was called one of the largest winter storms since the 1950s, affecting some 30 states with snow, sleet, freezing rain and rain. NASA satellites gathered data on the storm that at one point stretched from Texas and the Rockies to New England.

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› Related Story: A Snowy U.S. Panorama by Satellite

Tsunami Damage in Japan (03.15.11)

The Japanese city of Ishinomaki was one of the hardest hit when a powerful tsunami swept ashore on March 11, 2011. When the Advanced Spaceborne Thermal Emission and Reflection Radiometer (ASTER) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired the bottom image three days later, on March 14, water still inundated the city.

› Larger Image
› More from NASA on the quake

satellite images of Ishinomaki

NASA Satellites See Mississippi River Flooding (06.16.11)

The Landsat 5 satellite Thematic Mapper captured these images on June 11, 2011 (left) and June 18, 2008. In these false-color images, water is navy blue. Depending on land use, land above water is green or burnt orange. The images are rotated, with the left sides facing north. (Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images created by Jesse Allen and Robert Simmon, using Landsat data provided by the United States Geological Survey)
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› Related Story: Mississippi Flooding Captured by NASA Satellites (05.11.11)
› Related Story: Landsat Offers Stunning Comparison Of Flooding (05.19.11)

Splash screen for NASAViz iPad app

NASA's iPad App Beams Science Straight to Users (07.26.11)

NASA satellites beam data from space; now the Agency is beaming it straight to your iPad. Software and media specialists at Goddard developed a new iPad app -- the NASA Visualization Explorer -- that allows users to easily interact with extraordinary images, video, and information about NASA's latest Earth science research.

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Low-Flying Air-Quality Campaign Concludes Phase I (07.29.11)

Two research airplanes took to the skies over the Washington, D.C., metro area this summer as part of NASA's DISCOVER-AQ campaign. The two planes collected air samples at high and low altitudes on 14 flights over major interstates, densely populated areas, small towns, and the Chesapeake Bay as part of an effort to improve satellites' ability to monitor pollutants. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland and Wallops Flight Facility in Virginia both participated in the campaign.

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› Related Story: Paving the Way for Space-Based Air Pollution Sensors

A sunrise view from the UC-12 during one of the DISCOVER-AQ mission's early morning flights.

Tohoku Tsunami Created Icebergs In Antarctica (08.08.11)

The March earthquake off the coast of Japan and the resulting tsunami broke icebergs off Antarctica -- 8,000 miles (13,600 km) away. It took about 18 hours for waves to reach the Antarctic coast, where they broke off several chunks of ice that together equaled about two times the surface area of Manhattan. According to historical records, this particular piece of ice hadn't budged in at least 46 years before the tsunami came along.
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Temperature map of anomalies from July 20—27, 2010, compared to temperatures for the same dates from 2000 to 2008

Russian Fires and Floods in Pakistan Linked (08.30.11)

Two of the most destructive natural disasters of 2010 were closely linked by a single meteorological event, even though they occurred 1,500 miles apart.

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Hurricane Season 2011: Irene and Lee (09.01.11)

Hurricane Irene swung up the U.S. Eastern seaboard in August. At her strongest, Irene grew to a Category 3 hurricane on the Saffir-Simpson scale and made landfalls in North Carolina, New Jersey and New York. Tropical Storm Lee traveled north from the Gulf of Mexico and carried heavy rain to the Northeastern U.S. in early September. Flood damage from the storm drew comparisons to 1972's Hurricane Agnes. This video compilation of satellite observations from August 21 through August 29 shows the birth of Hurricane Irene in the Caribbean and her track over Puerto Rico, Hispaniola, the Bahamas, the U.S. East Coast and into Canada.
› The Full Story on Irene
› The Full Story on Lee

Aquarius Yields NASA's First Global Map of Ocean Salinity (09.22.11)

The Aquarius instrument launched aboard an international satellite (a partnership between NASA and Argentina's space agency) in June. By mid-September, Aquarius had completed its first global map of ocean salt levels. By measuring ocean salinity from space, Aquarius will provide new insights into how the massive natural exchange of freshwater between the ocean, atmosphere and sea ice influences ocean circulation, weather and climate. NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center manages Aquarius mission operations and processes its scientific data.

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First global map of the salinity, or saltiness, of Earth’s ocean surface produced by NASA's new Aquarius instrument

Arctic Sea Ice Continues Decline, Hits 2nd-Lowest Level (10.04.11)

In September the extent of sea ice covering the Arctic Ocean declined to the second-lowest extent on record. Satellite data showed that summertime sea ice cover narrowly avoided a new record low. This video shows Arctic sea ice from March 7, 2011, to Sept. 9, 2011, ending with a comparison of the 30-year average minimum extent (in yellow) and the Northwest Passage (shown in red). (Credit: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center)
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› Related Story: Arctic Ice Gets a Checkup
› Download this video in additional formats from NASA Goddard's Scientific Visualization Studio

a forest fire

NASA Releases Visual Tour of Earth's Fires (10.19.11)

For more than a decade, instruments on Terra and Aqua, two of NASA's flagship Earth-observing satellites, have scanned the surface of our planet for fires four times a day. They have revolutionized what scientists know about fire's role in land cover change, ecosystem processes and the global carbon cycle by allowing researchers to map the characteristics and global distribution of fires in remarkable detail. NASA released a series of new visualizations that show tens of millions of fires detected worldwide from space since 2002, thanks in no small part to Terra and Aqua.

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› Related Story: A Look Back at a Decade of Fires

NASA, NOAA Data Show Significant Antarctic Ozone Hole Remains (10.20.11)

The Antarctic ozone hole, which yawns wide every Southern Hemisphere spring, reached its annual peak on Sept. 12. It stretched to 10.05 million square miles, the ninth largest ozone hole on record. Above the South Pole, the ozone hole reached its deepest point of the season on Oct. 9, tying this year for the 10th lowest in this 26-year record. This video compiles daily visualizations of the Antarctic ozone hole, from July 1, 2011, through Oct. 15, 2011. (Credit: NASA)
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› Download video (6 MB mp4)

Watching the Birth of an Iceberg (11.01.11)

After discovering an emerging crack that cut across the floating ice shelf of Pine Island Glacier in Antarctica, NASA's Operation IceBridge flew a follow-up mission and made the first-ever detailed airborne measurements of a major iceberg calving in progress.
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› Related Story: NASA Airborne Mission Maps Remote, Deteriorating Glaciers
› Related Story: A Crack in the Pine Island Glacier Ice Shelf (Blog)
› More about IceBridge

Earth-Observing NPP Satellite Begins to Deliver (11.22.11)

Understanding, monitoring and predicting the course of long-term climate change and short-term weather conditions remain tasks of profound importance. Launched in October, NPP is the first satellite designed to study both. By November, its instruments had begun returning data.

› Related Story: NPP Satellite Acquires First VIIRS Image
› Related Story: NPP Acquires First Moisture Measurements
› Related Story: NASA Readies New Type of Earth-Observing Satellite

VIIRS data imposed on a globe

Still from video showing how atmospheric waves generated by lightning can escape Earth's atmosphere.

Lightning-Made Waves in Earth's Atmosphere Leak Into Space (11.28.11)

As lightning flashes, it creates low frequency waves that circle Earth, a phenomenon known as Schumann resonance. Much of the energy from the waves is trapped between the ground and the ionosphere layer in Earth's atmosphere -- but now it seems that some of the energy escapes.

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Climate History Hints at Potential Rapid Changes (12.08.11)

New research into the Earth's paleoclimate history by NASA's Goddard Institute for Space Studies Director James E. Hansen suggests the potential for rapid climate changes this century, including multiple meters of sea level rise, if global warming is not abated. NASA shared the research at the annual meeting of the American Geophysical Union.

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› More NASA Earth science stories shared at AGU

The earth, featuring Antarctica

This gallery showcases imagery and video highlights from NASA Goddard in the field of Earth science.