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Introduction

These six NASA datasets have been specially reprocessed for use with the freely-available Google Earth planetary browser software. (Learn more about Google Earth.) The first five include twelve monthly versions of the data.

Additional NASA imagery for Google Earth is available from the following sources:

Blue Marble: Next Generation

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Everyone knows that NASA studies space; fewer people know that NASA also studies Earth. Since the agency’s creation almost 50 years ago, NASA has been a world leader in space-based studies of our home planet. Our mission has always been to explore, to discover, and to understand the world in which we live from the unique vantage point of space, and to share our newly gained perspectives with the public. That spirit of sharing remains true today as NASA operates 18 of the most advanced Earth-observing satellites ever built, helping scientists make some of the most detailed observations ever made of our world.

In celebration of the ongoing deployment of its Earth Observing System, NASA is pleased to share the newest in its series of stunning Earth images, affectionately named the “Blue Marble: Next Generation.” This new Earth imagery enhances the Blue Marble legacy by providing a detailed look at an entire year in the life of our planet. In sharing these Blue Marble images, NASA hopes the public will join with the agency in its continuing exploration of our world from the unique perspective of space.

Source: The NASA Earth Observatory.

Land Surface Temperature

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These maps of the Earth's land surface temperature for the year 2006 were produced using data from the Moderate-resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS), which flies onboard NASA's Terra and Aqua satellites. MODIS measures the temperature of nearly every square kilometer of the Earth’s surface roughly twice a day.

Unlike conventional observations of surface temperature, which are actually collected by thermometers two meters above the ground, MODIS precisely measures the thermal radiation emitted from the planet’s surface — whether that surface is bare ground, lakes, treetops, or rooftops. This additional detail means farmers can know the temperature of the air around their crops and the temperature of the crops themselves, which helps better estimate things like productivity and water requirements. This data also allows scientists to measure phenomena such as global warming on a planetary scale.

Source: ICESS, U.C. Santa Barbara.

Sea Surface Temperature

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Sea surface temperature is the temperature of the top millimeter of the ocean’s surface. Sea surface temperatures influence weather, including hurricanes, as well as plant and animal life in the ocean. Like Earth’s land surface, sea surface temperatures are warmer near the equator and colder near the poles. Currents like giant rivers move warm and cold water around the world’s oceans. Some of these currents flow on the surface, and they are obvious in sea surface temperature images. Special microwave technology allows the AMSR-E sensor on NASA’s Aqua satellite to measure sea surface temperatures through clouds, something no satellite sensor before it was able to do across the whole globe.

The Aqua AMSR-E is a cooperative effort between NASA and the National Space Development Agency (JAXA) of Japan, with the collaboration of scientific and industry organizations in both countries. AMSR-E data are produced by Remote Sensing Systems and sponsored by the NASA Earth Science REASoN DISCOVER Project and the AMSR-E Science Team.

Source: AMSR-E, Remote Sensing Systems, and the NASA Earth Observatory.

Land Vegetation Index

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In an effort to monitor major fluctuations in vegetation and understand how they affect the environment, 20 years ago Earth scientists began using satellite remote sensors to measure and map the density of green vegetation over the Earth. The Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) is one way of measuring these effects. The NDVI is calculated from the visible and near-infrared light reflected by vegetation. It is based on the fact that healthy vegetation absorbs most of the visible light that hits it and reflects a large portion of the near-infrared light, while unhealthy or sparse vegetation reflects more visible light and less near-infrared light.

The NDVI can be calculated using data from a number of different satellites and sensors. The particular images you see here were produced from data measured by the SeaWiFS sensor aboard the SeaStar satellite (operated by one of NASA’s commercial partners, GeoEye) and processed by NASA’s Ocean Color team.

Source: The SeaWiFS Project, NASA, and GeoEye. For research and educational use only.

Ocean Chlorophyll Concentration

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When we think about Earth’s sources of oxygen, we usually think of vast forests such as the Amazon, but about half of the oxygen we breathe comes from elsewhere: it’s produced by phytoplankton. Phytoplankton are tiny, single-celled plants that live in the ocean, and they serve as the base of the oceanic food chain. Yet as important as phytoplankton are to life on Earth, their interaction with our planet has only recently been studied on a global scale.

To convert sunlight to chemical energy, ocean plants use chlorophyll, the same chemical that gives terrestrial plants their green color. By measuring chlorophyll, NASA satellites can determine the distribution and intensity of phytoplankton in the world’s oceans. These images were produced by combining data from the SeaWiFS and MODIS sensors.

Source: The SeaWiFS Project, MODIS, NASA, and GeoEye. For research and educational use only.

Land Cover Classification

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New NASA land cover maps provide scientists with the most refined global picture ever produced of the distribution of Earth’s ecosystems and land use patterns. High-quality land cover maps aid scientists and policy makers involved in natural resource management and a range of research and global monitoring objectives.

The land cover maps were developed at Boston University in Boston, Mass., using data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite. The maps are based on a digital database of Earth images collected between November, 2000, and October, 2001.

Source: Boston University and the NASA Earth Observatory.

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