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Ireland
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Ireland

December 6, 2005

The rich and vibrant greens in this image depict the aptly-named "Emerald Isle". Ireland (also called the 'Republic of Ireland') comprises about 5/6 of the island, while Northern Ireland, a region of the United Kingdom, encompasses the remaining portion.

The darker colors in this image signify the coastal mountain ranges, while the lighter colors indicate the central lowlands or plains. In the past, forests covered the entire island, but the island was virtually stripped of its trees in the 17th century. Since then, agriculture has dominated the landscape, although currently Ireland's economy is dominated by the industrial and service sectors.

Ireland is located at high latitude (between 51.5 and 55.5 degrees North), but its climate is very mild: the average temperature in Winter is about 4 degrees Celsius (39 degrees Fahrenheit), while the average Summer temperature is about 16 degrees Celsius (61 degrees Fahrenheit).

This condition is caused by the North Atlantic Current or Drift (of which the Gulf Stream is a part); warm water from the Gulf of Mexico is carried to the North Atlantic by strong ocean currents. Some of the water evaporates, making the water that remains much saltier and colder, and, therefore, more dense. It then sinks towards the ocean floor and is carried back in the direction from which it came.

Recent research by NASA and other scientists indicates that this conveyor belt-like system may have been, and continue to be, disrupted by global warming.



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