NASA spots Earth's trouble spots

NASA spots Earth's trouble spots

The Earth Observatory at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md., daily pinpoints global hazards such as wildfires, volcano eruptions and large-scale storms on a world map, which is posted at

Chief editor David Herring said the 8-month-old natural-hazards program daily receives almost 1T of raw data per Earth Observing System satellite. As it travels, 'a large satellite sees almost the entire surface of the planet every day,' Herring said. 'The data that's collected every six to eight weeks rivals the Library of Congress collection.'

Image processing specialists transform the raw data into true-color images as well as false-color visualizations that emphasize certain geophysical features. The staff also creates 3-D animations of events such as tropical rainfall measurements. Depending on type, the raw data then is stored at one of seven archive centers around the country.

Early this month, the hazards shown in high resolution or animation were Hurricane Lili, widespread fires in South America, avalanches from the Russian Kolka glacier, and floods and typhoons in Asia. The site is part of an international effort to track global environmental changes.

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