Herbal Earth Revealed By NASA/NOAA Project: Suomi NPP
June 22, 2013

Suomi NPP Satellite Images Show Earth’s Vegetation In Great Detail

redOrbit Staff & Wire Reports - Your Universe Online

New high-resolution images released earlier this week by NASA provide a bird’s-eye view of the areas of Earth where there is lush vegetation, as well as arid regions where the landscape is barren.

The photos, which were crafted using a year’s worth of data collected by a joint NASA/National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) project known as the Suomi NPP (Polar-orbiting Partnership), were revealed to the public by the US space agency on Wednesday.

The satellite’s Visible-Infrared Imager/Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) sensor, which detects changes in the reflection of light and produces images that measures vegetation changes over time, collected the data between April 2012 and April 2013, according to Matt Bryan of The Verge.

The information was used “to create a new vegetation index which identifies how much of the sun's energy is absorbed by plant life on Earth and how much is reflected back into space,” Bryan said.

In addition to identifying areas of lush vegetation and barren locations such as deserts, snow-covered peaks and urban areas, the information can be used by the scientists “to advance weather model accuracy and understand changes in seasonal vegetation cover,” he added. “These small changes can help detect levels of fuel that could potentially cause forest fires, also providing early warnings for droughts and even malaria outbreaks.”

NASA explained the data will be incorporated into several different types of products and services based on the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI), including environmental monitoring, numerical weather prediction models and the US Drought Monitor. The NDVI measures and monitors plant growth, vegetation cover and biomass production from satellite data, they said.

“The photos provide a vivid, at-a-glance depiction of the Earth's natural landscape,” Victoria Woollaston of the Daily Mail said. “They highlight the stark contrast between the plush green lands of Europe next to the dry, arid regions of Africa.

“The images also show how forest fires can physically scar the landscape in places such as Australia and how rivers, in dry areas such as Egypt, can replenish the land and provide a life source for its inhabitants,” she added.

The Suomi NPP mission is viewed by NASA as a key first step in the construction of a next-generation Earth-observing satellite system that collects data on both short-term weather and long-term climate change. It was launched into space onboard United Launch Alliance Delta II rocket that lifted off from Space Launch Complex 2 at Vandenberg Air Force Base in California on the morning of October 28, 2011.