Satellites draw a bead on trouble

Earth Observatory/NASA Website

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 receives almost 1T of raw data every day from each Earth Observing System satellite. As it travels, 'a large satellite sees almost the entire surface of the planet every day,' Herring said.

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.

Early this month, the hazards shown included Hurricane Lili, widespread fires in South America, avalanches from the Russian Kolka glacier, and floods and typhoons in Asia.

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