Mapping Global Sea Level Rise

NASA Earth Observatory:

Global sea level rise has been accelerating in recent decades, according to a new study based on 25 years of NASA and European satellite data. This acceleration has been driven mainly by increased ice melting in Greenland and Antarctica, and it has the potential to double the total sea level rise projected by 2100[. …]

The rate of sea level rise has risen from about 2.5 millimeters (0.1 inch) per year in the 1990s to about 3.4 millimeters (0.13 inches) per year today. These increases have been measured by satellite altimeters since 1992, including the TOPEX/Poseidon, Jason-1, Jason-2, and Jason-3 missions, which have been jointly managed by NASA, France’s Centre national d’etudes spatiales (CNES), the European Organisation for the Exploitation of Meteorological Satellites (EUMETSAT), and the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The maps on this page depict the changes in sea level observed by those satellites between 1992 and 2014.

Estimating Population

NASA’s Socioeconomic Data and Applications Center (SEDAC) has produced a population estimation service “for estimating population totals and related statistics within a user-defined region.” Basically, it provides a population estimate for an area drawn on a map. Available as data via map and GIS clients, it’s also accessible via a web app. I’ve noodled about with it; its population estimates are generally not insane. [Kottke]

Cape Town’s Disappearing Water Reservoirs

Cape Town is running out of drinking water, a crisis dramatically depicted by NASA Earth Observatory maps that show the depletion of the city’s reservoirs. The animated gif above, for example, “shows how dramatically Theewaterskloof [Cape Town’s largest reservoir] has been depleted between January 2014 and January 2018. The extent of the reservoir is shown with blue; non-water areas have been masked with gray in order to make it easier to distinguish how the reservoir has changed. Theewaterskloof was near full capacity in 2014. During the preceding year, the weather station at Cape Town airport tallied 682 millimeters (27 inches) of rain (515 mm is normal), making it one of the wettest years in decades. However, rains faltered in 2015, with just 325 mm falling. The next year, with 221 mm, was even worse. In 2017, the station recorded just 157 mm of rain.”

Hot and Cold

NASA Earth Observatory map by Jesse Allen based on MODIS data

The deep freeze is unevenly distributed. NASA Earth Observatory published this temperature anomaly map based on data from the MODIS instrument on NASA’s Terra satellite. A temperature anomaly map shows how much warmer or colder temperatures are versus the average—in this case, land surface temperatures from 26 December 2017 to 2 January 2018 are compared to the 2001-2010 average for the same period. While it’s awfully cold in Canada, and the central and eastern United States, it’s warmer than normal in the southwest. And if you look beyond the North American continent (which is something people should do more often), it’s generally warmer worldwide, particularly in Europe and Asia:

NASA Earth Observatory map by Jesse Allen based on MODIS data

Hurricanes and Aerosols

NASA Goddard

NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center produced this visualization, based on computer modelling and data from Earth observing satellites, tracking how hurricanes transport sea salt, dust, and smoke across the globe.

During the 2017 hurricane season, the storms are visible because of the sea salt that is captured by the storms. Strong winds at the surface lift the sea salt into the atmosphere and the particles are incorporated into the storm. Hurricane Irma is the first big storm that spawns off the coast of Africa. As the storm spins up, the Saharan dust is absorbed in cloud droplets and washed out of the storm as rain. This process happens with most of the storms, except for Hurricane Ophelia. Forming more northward than most storms, Ophelia traveled to the east picking up dust from the Sahara and smoke from large fires in Portugal. Retaining its tropical storm state farther northward than any system in the Atlantic, Ophelia carried the smoke and dust into Ireland and the UK.

Video at the link, or here’s the YouTube version. [APOD/Kottke]

20 Years of Observing Our Living Planet


NASA: “Satellites measured land and ocean life from space as early as the 1970s. But it wasn’t until the launch of the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS) in 1997 that the space agency began what is now a continuous, global view of both land and ocean life. A new animation captures the entirety of this 20-year record, made possible by multiple satellites, compressing a decades-long view of life on Earth into a captivating few minutes.” Here’s a video about it:

Animations available for download hereGuardian coverage. [Benjamin Hennig]

Mapping the Damage in Puerto Rico


At NASA’s Earth Observatory, before and after images of Puerto Rico’s nighttime lights illustrate the extent of power outages and infrastructure damage on the island. NASA has also produced a map of likely damaged areas of eastern Puerto Rico, based on before and after radar satellite interferometry and similar to the map they produced for the Mexican earthquake. At ground level, the CrowdRescue Puerto Rico Infrastructure Map displays crowdsourced reports of damage—downed power lines, bridge collapses, floods, mudslides and other incidents.

Mapping the Earthquake in Central Mexico

The New York Times

This crowdsourced map of collapsed and damaged buildings in Mexico City (in Spanish) appeared shortly after the 7.1-magnitude earthquake hit central Mexico on 19 September [via]. NASA also produced a map, based on radar data from the ESA’s Copernicus satellites that compared the state of the region before and after the quake. Interestingly, the data was validated against the crowdsourced map.

The New York Times produced maps showing the pattern of damage in Mexico City and the extent and severity of earthquake shaking (the Times graphics department’s version of the quake’s Shake Map, I suppose) as well as how Mexico City’s geology—it was built on the drained basin of Lake Texcoco—made the impact of the quake much worse.

Maria’s Deluge

Some of the most striking maps of the recent bout of hurricanes have involved the sheer amount of water dropped by these storms. (See previous posts on Harvey and Irma.) Above, a is a short NASA video showing Maria’s track through the Caribbean, dumping water in its wake.

Relatedly, the Washington Post produced maps of precipitation and river gauge levels on Puerto Rico that show just how much water Maria threw at that island.

Washington Post

Predicting Future Malaria Outbreaks from Satellite Data

Data from NASA’s earth-observing satellites is being used to predict future malaria outbreaks in the Amazon rainforests of Peru. To be sure, as the above video shows, this is really about taking geospatial and remote sensing data from several different sources and correlating them to build a predictive model: it’s John Snow’s cholera map at large scale and for the satellite age.

New Gravity Map of Mars

NASA/Goddard/UMBC/MIT/E. Mazarico

A new gravity map of Mars that shows the thickness of the Martian crust based on gravity measurements from Martian orbiters, reveals a crust that is less dense and shows less variation than earlier maps. “The researchers mapped the density of the Martian crust, estimating the average density is 2,582 kilograms per meter cubed (about 161 pounds per cubic foot). That’s comparable to the average density of the lunar crust. Typically, Mars’ crust has been considered at least as dense as Earth’s oceanic crust, which is about 2,900 kilograms per meter cubed (about 181 pounds per cubic foot).”

NASA Images of Hurricane Harvey

Hurricane Harvey on 26 Aug at 5:45 PM CDT (2245 UTC), as captured by NOAA’s GOES-East satellite. Credits: NASA/NOAA GOES Project.

NASA’s page on Hurricane Harvey has been updated many times, sometimes several times a day, since Harvey began its life as Tropical Depression 9 on 17 August. It includes plenty of satellite imagery of the storm, as well as temperature and rainfall maps.

The Earth at Night, Updated

NASA Earth Observatory images by Joshua Stevens, using Suomi NPP VIIRS data from Miguel Román, NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center.

NASA has released updated global maps of the Earth at night. The so-called “black marble” maps show where human activity lights up the darkness. NASA’s page highlights some of the differences between the 2016 and 2012 versions of the map with before/after interactive sliders. John Nelson has tried something different: overlaying the 2016 map on the 2012 map with a clipping mask shows newly illuminated parts of the globe as dark patches.

John M. Nelson, “A Changing Earth at Night,” 2017.

Mapping Arctic Warming

At All Over the Map, Betsy Mason posts 11 Ways to See How Climate Change Is Imperilling the Arctic, a collection of maps and infographics depicting several different indicators of global warming, including sea ice extent, atmospheric temperatures, growing season, polar bear populations, as well as projected shipping routes for an ice-free Arctic Ocean.

NASA Earth Observatory

Meanwhile, NASA Earth Observatory points—while it still can—to a study mapping the extent of existing and potential thermokarst (thawed permafrost) landscapes. On the Earth Observatory maps (see North America, above), “[t]he different colors reflect the types of landscapes—wetlands, lakes, hillslopes, etc.—where thermokarst is likely to be found today and where it is most likely to form in the future.”

Previously: Mapping Arctic Sea IceMapping the Thaw.

November Sea Ice


NASA Earth Observatory: “In November, the sea ice extent averaged 9.08 million square kilometers (3.52 million square miles)—the lowest November extent in the satellite record. The yellow line shows the median extent from 1981 to 2010, and gives an idea of how conditions this November strayed from the norm.” Also shows sea ice extent for previous years dating back to 1978. Hudson Bay was icebound in November not that long ago.

Previously: Mapping Arctic Sea Ice.