Article: Wired on shipping pollution

An article on led me to this striking composite image created from measurements taken by NASA’s Aura satellite. The satellite measured the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2), which is a pollutant created by various forms of human industry (that’s why the coastal areas are so dark) and by ships’ engines. You can see a distinct line between Singapore and Sri Lanka, site of a major shipping lane. There’s more from NASA on the subject here.

Nitrogen dioxide pollution (darker is worse)
Nitrogen dioxide pollution (darker is worse)

Ships’ tracks are also visible at an atmospheric level, as particles from their exhausts float up into the atmosphere and create what looks like the contrails that form behind aeroplanes. There is an explanation of the process, and an image of those kinds of tracks, here (image reproduced below).

Ship tracks visible in the atmosphere
Ship tracks visible in the atmosphere

The image of these trails is actually a stereo one and if you have a pair of 3D glasses… they won’t help at all!

It’s quite sobering. Our fingerprints are all over this planet.

Read the Wired article here.

Global Sea Surface Currents and Temperature by NASA

NASA has produced a number of visualisations of oceanographic and climatological data, among them this one showing sea surface currents, coloured according to their temperature. This one is subtle and slow-moving. Watch carefully. You can clearly see the equatorial currents, and the hectic eddies of the Agulhas current all down the east coast of Southern Africa.

Perpetual Ocean by NASA

Here’s another beautiful visualisation that reminds me of nothing so much as a Van Gogh painting. It was made by NASA, using some smart science coupled with satellite data that was detailed enough to resolve surface eddies and other fine current systems on the ocean surface. Ocean currents transport heat, making them relatively easy to detect with modern satellite technology.

Certain features of the land such as vertical heights have been exaggerated. Make sure you have sound on when you watch this, and check out the Circumpolar Current – it’s powerful!

Via FlowingData and BoingBoing.