The Suomi NPP satellite captured an amazing image of northern Australia on June 25, 2013. Dozens of wildfires release wisps of smoke throughout the Northern Territory. Offshore, phytoplankton and sediment create swirls of blue, green, and beige. This image was produced by using the “true color” bands on the Visible and Infrared Imaging and Radiometer Suite (VIIRS), while the thermal signatures of the fire locations are augmented in red using the M13 “fire detection” band.
The swirling of sea surface waters is shown in this thermal infrared image from the Suomi NPP spacecraft on April 12, 2015 in an area just southeast of Cape Cod, Massachusetts. The VIIRS sensors can detect slight differences in temperature at a resolution of 375 meters per pixel, and here they are colored – blue for cold, and red for warm. The warm waters of the Gulf Stream meet and mix with the much cooler surface waters from the North Atlantic.
This image, captured on September 13, 2016, shows the difference in "skin temperature" -- the heat reflected off the Earth's surfaces -- among mountains and valleys, urban heat islands and colder low-population areas, and ocean current variations (including the warm Gulf Stream curling off of the coast). The white and blue areas are the coldest, while yellow areas are the hottest.
The Earth appears to the human eye as a “pale blue dot” from space, but that is due to the way that our eyes and brains interpret the light reflected from the surface. Some organisms, such as those that see ultraviolet light, see the world in a different array of colors. The VIIRS sensor on the Suomi NPP satellite can also see the world differently, with its 22 channels, each tuned to detect a different portion of the electromagnetic spectrum.
In northwest China lies the Taklamakan Desert - a remote area bordered by mountains on three sides. Not only do these mountainous areas create rain shadows in the region, they also block the blowing dust, causing sands to swirl and dunes to shift. In this image from the Suomi NPP VIIRS instrument taken on September 26, 2013, the sands can be seen blowing up to the mountain edges of the desert, creating a haze over the surface.
The Aral Sea, split between Uzbekistan to the south and Kazakhstan to the north, used to be one of the largest lakes in the world. Now, after years of water loss, it is mostly dried up lake beds. This image, taken on March 4, 2016, uses multiple spectral bands (SVI 4, 1, 3) from the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite that are sensitive to subtle differences in surface temperature, condition, and vegetation.
Located in the Saharan Desert (northern Niger), the Air Mountains rise over one mile high, creating unique micro-climates and surface features. By combining different infrared imagery bands from the VIIRS instrument on the Suomi NPP satellite, these differences come to life. This image, taken on October 24, 2014, uses the SVI 3, 2, and 4 channels, along with hue and gamma correction.
Located off the northern coasts of Norway and Russia, the Barents Sea is rather shallow, with an average depth of 230 meters (750 feet). Yet, what it lacks in depth it more than makes up for in biological production, as the presence of the bloom indicates. Benefiting from cold, nutrient rich waters, the tiny marine plants that comprise phytoplankton are a key component of the region's ecosystem, serving as a food source for zooplankton, which in turn feed a host of sea life ranging from cod to whales.
The Niger River in Africa forms an inland delta, providing a variety of habitat for birds and other migratory species, not to mention a fertile resource for the local people. In this image, three of the VIIRS channels -- SVI3, SVI2, SVI1 -- were combined to create this false color image. This channel combination is useful for determining land surface type, along with areas of wildfires and flooding.
When examined with infrared imagery, the diagonal patterns of the Kulundra Steppes in southcentral Russia’s Altai Krai region become striking. Here we can see the contrast between the disparate surface temperatures of the agricultural fields (pink), forested areas (green), and bodies of water (black). These false colors are created by combining three of the Suomi NPP satellite’s VIIRS infrared imagery channels in an RGB composite