Georgia through Earth, Fire, Air and Water

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Credit: Allison Carter. Explore further. DOI: Provided by Georgia Institute of Technology. This document is subject to copyright. Apart from any fair dealing for the purpose of private study or research, no part may be reproduced without the written permission. The content is provided for information purposes only. Scientists invent new technology to streamline drug discovery 7 minutes ago.

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Learn more. Your name. Note Your email address is used only to let the recipient know who sent the email. How can sandstorms in the Sahara Desert transform the Amazon rainforest, over 5, miles away? In the frigid ocean beneath Antarctica, how can a vast undersea waterfall, times bigger than Niagara Falls, lead to a gigantic feeding frenzy near the equator?

And how can warm water, streaming past the coast of Africa, trigger a weather catastrophe, half a world away, in the southern United States? Scientists have begun to find surprising answers to these and other profound questions, thanks to a network of satellites, orbiting high above the earth. Ever watchful, their senses extend far beyond what our eyes can see. It's really the last bastion of human discovery. We're discovering new things every day. How are the oceans, the continents, the atmosphere and even the sun bound together, and how do they affect all living things?

For the first time, we can understand how earth, fire, wind and water join together to create the dynamic environments that shaped life in all its forms. Since humans first ventured into space, some of the greatest gifts of exploration have been the new views of our home. Who can forget the iconic "Earthrise" images of the Apollo era? And now, from the International Space Station, we have these spectacular vistas.

All the ways climate change has impacted Earth in 12222 (so far)

The blue marble is finally revealing its secrets. It's a planet alive with activity and constant change, its surface transformed by humans, yet still ruled by powerful natural forces that we are only beginning to understand.


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It's teeming with diversity, with beauty, amazing colors, you know? The blues and the greens and the whites. What are the essential ingredients, and how do they combine to generate and sustain all life?

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How do the natural forces that surround us work together to create an engine powerful enough to nourish and drive life forward, in all its diversity? Our best hope for answers may come from above. Orbiting over our heads are satellites keeping watch from space. Most operate at altitudes ranging from a few hundred miles above the surface of the planet to as high as 25, miles. Each one of these Earth-observing satellites reveals a different piece of the puzzle. Each carries an array of exquisitely sensitive detectors designed to reveal what would otherwise be hidden from our view.

So satellites are enabling us to turn what are invisible processes into visible things we can see and then understand.

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NARRATOR: To see how our world works, in this program we have taken information provided by satellites, combined it with computer models, and rendered the results in these scientifically accurate graphics. These images will show, in great detail, how sunlight, moisture, land and atmosphere interact in unexpected ways, with seemingly local events often triggered by forces far away in space and time. And with these new insights, for the first time, scientists can begin to understand the intimate relationship between the planet and all the living things it supports.

That warms the earth. Everything that you can see that lives and breathes and moves on the earth is pushed by the sun. One of NASA's newest satellites, named for a meteorologist, polar-orbiting Suomi, launched in , provides the view. The spacecraft is the size of a small school bus. It orbits miles up, circling the planet 14 times a day. On board, it carries five separate sensors that enable it to see things invisible to human eyes.

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The light that we can see is confined to a narrow band of electromagnetic radiation, just a tiny portion of what the satellite can pick up. Electromagnetic radiation spans a spectrum that goes far beyond the familiar colors of the rainbow. There is so much other information out there available to us, and that's, in large part, what these satellites do. Anything that emits heat gives off infrared radiation, so the CERES data shows the earth in shades of heat, accurate to a fraction of a degree.

It reveals how the planet, as a whole, reacts to sunlight, both absorbing and reflecting the radiation coming from our local star. At the poles, the sun strikes at an oblique angle and what little light there is, gets reflected back out to space by the ice and clouds. These are the primary reasons why the poles remain cool.

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At the equator, it's a very different story. Not only does the planet receive more direct sunlight here, the lack of ice means that less of the sun's energy is reflected back into space. And at the equator, the sun's concentrated energy fuels a heat engine that can trigger weather events around the world. Perhaps the best place to see the impact of the sun's heat is an area in the Atlantic, just north of the equator and west of Africa: the coastal waters of the Cape Verde islands.