Gilbert Islands Central Pacific Ocean
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Gilbert Islands, Central Pacific Ocean

August 11, 2011
The Gilbert Islands, located in the central Pacific Ocean, resembled a string of jade beads floating in a blue ocean on August 6, 2011, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed overhead and captured this true-color image.

Although the islands may appear solid in the 1 km image, with tinges of green suggesting vegetation centrally, viewing the image at 250 km reveals that most of the islands are actually atolls - coral islands consisting of a reef surrounding a lagoon. It is the water of the lagoon that appears greenish-blue, while the narrow strip of reef and land ringing the lagoon appears pale.

The Gilbert Islands are a chain of 16 atolls and coral islands, and are one of the island groups that form the Republic of Kiribati. In this image, from the smallest island in the north, moving southward the islands are: Marakei, Abaiang, the tilted “v” shaped Tarawa, Maiana, Abemama, Kuria, the large Nonouti and elongated Tabiteuea, Onotoa and to the northeast of Onotoa, tiny Beru and Nikunau. Nonouti consists of 11.3 square miles of land and 143 square miles of lagoon.

Vegetation is sparse on the islands, with coconut palms and pandanus trees the most common plant life. Natural resources are also limited, with copra and fish representing the majority of production and exports. Most of the atolls are very low-lying, rising no more than six meters above sea level. The Gilbert Islands are at risk of significant land loss from rising sea levels.

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