Category Archives: Earth Observatories

Larsen C

I’ve seen a few different views of Larsen C and this image from ESA’s Sentinel-1 spacecraft is one of the best and arguably the most interesting.

ESA — On 12 July 2017, Europe’s Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission returned radar images showing that a lump of ice more than twice the size of Luxembourg had broken off the Antarctic Peninsula. Since then, this large tabular iceberg – known as A68 – has drifted about 5 km from the ice shelf. Images from Sentinel-1 also show that a cluster of more than 11 smaller icebergs has also now formed, the largest of which is over 13 km long. These ‘bergy bits’ have broken off both the giant iceberg and the remaining ice shelf. The image has been compiled using Sentinel-1 acquisitions on 27 July (right) and 30 July (left).

Image contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2017), processed by BAS–A. Fleming.

New Zealand Quake of 2016

Our Earth observing satellites are constantly returning data of all types to us. The ARIA project, a wonderful collaboration shows us changes in surface displacements along two axis and it is quite amazing. Mother Earth is powerful!

The press release was timely because I was “told” just the other day the solar wind was causing the “increased” earthquake activity recently. I was helpless, all I could do is give the person a blank stare – lol. I don’t think I got to the drooling stage before the person explained they did hear it on the internet so it had to be true.

No it isn’t true about the solar wind and earthquake relationship – sorry. My blank stare was returned with the same when I explained I am open-minded about such things and please point me to the corroborating data and papers to support the conclusion. So take all those claims with a grain of salt.

Do check out the (really good) press release:
NASA and its partners are contributing important observations and expertise to the ongoing response to the Nov. 14, 2016, magnitude 7.8 Kaikoura earthquake in New Zealand. This shallow earthquake was so complex and unusual, it is likely to change how scientists think about earthquake hazards in plate boundary zones around the world.

Scientists with the Advanced Rapid Imaging and Analysis project (ARIA), a collaboration between NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, and Caltech in Pasadena, analyzed interferometric synthetic aperture radar images from the PALSAR-2 instrument on the ALOS-2 satellite operated by the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) to calculate maps of the deformation of Earth’s surface caused by the quake. Two maps show motion of the surface in two different directions. Each false-color map shows the amount of permanent surface movement caused almost entirely by the earthquake, as viewed by the satellite, during a 28-day interval between two ALOS-2 wide-swath images acquired on Oct. 18 and Nov. 15, 2016.

In these two new maps made from the wide-swath images, the colors of the surface displacements are proportional to the surface motion. The wide-swath images cover the entire 106-mile (170-kilometer) length of the complex set of earthquake ruptures. The arrows show the direction of the radar motion measurement.

In the left image, the blue and purple tones show the areas where the land around the Kaikoura peninsula in the Marlborough region of New Zealand’s South Island has moved toward the satellite by up to 13.2 feet (4 meters), both eastward and upward. In the right image, the blue and purple tones show the areas that moved to the north by up to 30 feet (9 meters) and green tones show the area that moved to the south. The sharp line of color change is across the Kekerengu Fault, which had the largest amount of motion in the earthquake. Field studies found maximum rupture at the surface was measured at 39 feet (12 meters) of horizontal displacement. Several other faults have sharp color changes due to smaller amounts of motion, with a total of at least 12 faults rupturing in this single large earthquake. Areas without color have snow, heavy vegetation or open water that prevents the radar measurements from being coherent between satellite images – a required condition to measure ground displacement. Scientists use these maps to build detailed models of the fault slip at depth and associated land movements to better understand the impact on future earthquake activity. The PALSAR-2 data were provided by JAXA through the Committee on Earth Observation Satellites (CEOS) and through scientific research projects. The background image is from Google Earth.

Image Credit: NASA/JPL-Caltech/JAXA/Google Earth

GRACE is 15

15 years of looking back at us. One of the news stories I remember from back in 2014 was about the water shortage in the US State of California: “NASA Analysis: 11 Trillion Gallons to Replenish California Drought Losses” – 11 Trillion gallons!

That 11 trillion gallon deficient is abating thanks to a very wet and snowy winter. California Drought Status.

Have a look at the GRACE multimedia page.

Millennium Tower Sinking?


The sinking of the Millennium Tower has already sunk over 400 mm / 16 inches. As you would expect this is causing quite a lot of problems, summed up nicely by the NY Times.

The Sentinel data is rather amazing in showing how isolated the worst of the phenomenon seems to be.

From ESA:

Data from the Sentinel-1 satellites acquired between 22 February 2015 and 20 September 2016 show that Millennium Tower in San Francisco is sinking by about 40 mm a year in the ‘line of sight’ – the direction that the satellite is ‘looking’ at the building. This translates into a vertical subsidence of almost 50 mm (almost two inches) a year, assuming no tilting. The coloured dots represent targets observed by the radar. The colour scale ranges from 40 mm a year away from radar (red) to 40 mm a year towards radar (blue). Green represents stable targets.

Here’s the full article from ESA.

Copyright:   Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel data (2015–16) / ESA SEOM INSARAP study / PPO.labs / Norut / NGU

SpaceX Launch Delay


SpaceX was supposed to launch the JCSat-14 today from Cape Canaveral Florida however due to weather concerns the launch as been moved to Friday 06 May at 05:20 UTC. That particular time is also 01:20 ET which means this will be a night time launch. Lucky us!

The JCSat-14 is a communications satellite to serve the Asia Pacific region.  The satellite will replace an older satellite at 154 degrees East longitude and provide improved capabilities.

The picture above is the SpaceX launch of DSCOVR, it’s one of my favorites.

Credit: SpaceX

New View of the Nasca Lines


I haven’t seen a Nasca story in a long time, this is great! Click the image for a much larger view.

From NASA:

In just two ten-minute overflights, an airborne NASA synthetic aperture radar proved it could pinpoint areas of disturbance in Peru’s Nasca lines World Heritage Site. The data collected on the two flights will help Peruvian authorities fully catalog the thousand-year-old designs drawn on the ground in and around the site for the first time, as well as giving them a new tool for protecting the fragile constructions from both careless humans and natural disturbances such as floods.

The top frame shows a portion of the mesa-top site in a Google Earth image. Drainage gullies circle the mesa where the Nasca people constructed lines several miles long, enormous polygons, and animal figures simply by moving rocks. A shape called the Hummingbird is faintly visible above and to the left of the scale line, its long beak ending below a road that cuts diagonally from the right edge of the image to the center.

In the synthetic aperture radar image of the same site, below, areas of disturbance appear dark. There are extensive areas of disturbance around the Hummingbird as well as a pathway down the gully directly above the glyph. Other small disturbances may have been caused by erosion in the dry creekbeds.

NASA’s Uninhabited Aerial Vehicle Synthetic Aperture Radar (UAVSAR), developed and managed by the Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, California, can record changes on the ground beneath the aircraft that occur between multiple flights, which take exactly the same flight path. The instrument is used to monitor how volcanoes, earthquakes, and other natural hazards are changing Earth. Principal investigator Bruce Chapman of JPL noted that UAVSAR is ideally suited for observing the Nasca site because the region has virtually no vegetation and receives no rainfall whatsoever in most years, meaning that natural disturbances are minimal.

Image Credit:NASA/JPL-Caltech/Google


EPIC Earth


So awesome it’s EPIC for real!  A new website was launched by NASA that shows the full sunlit side of the Earth – everyday.  Yes everyday the NASA’s Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) will take a series of 10 images of the Earth every day and NASA will post them 12 to 36 hours later.  The images are taken by a NASA camera one million miles away on the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR), a partnership between NASA, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the U.S. Air Force.

See the images.

Visit the DISCOVR mission site.

Image: EPIC / NASA