Decades of satellite observations and astronaut photographs show that clouds dominate space-based views of Earth.
NASA Earth Observatory image by Jesse Allen and Kevin Ward, using data provided by the MODIS Atmosph

Cloudy with a chance of geek: New science of sunshine and shade

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Next time you feel there are too many clouds hanging over you, you may be right. A new composite image of Earth taken by NASA’s Aqua Satellite indicates that, on average, 67 percent of our planet is covered with clouds.

NASA Earth Science Division Operating Missions

Aqua is part of NASA’s Earth Observing System (EOS), which consists of multiple satellites observing long-term global changes of land, atmosphere and oceans. Aqua’s mission focuses on our planet’s water cycle: evaporation, precipitation, ice and snow cover, etc. Aqua has a Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) instrument aboard that collected the data the latest cloud map. That data was averaged over 10 years of cloud observations from July 2002 to April 2015.

It’s fascinating how easily you can see where clouds gather and where they don’t. Look at the striking lack of clouds in Australia, the Sahara, the Middle East and central Antarctica versus the cloud belts along the Equator and the mid-latitudes. This new data shows that on average, only 10 percent of the ocean and 30 percent of the land are cloudless at any given time. For more details on how the effects of circulation patterns in our oceans and atmospheres are illuminated by this beautiful image, check out Phil Plait’s take.

Here’s some geek from the week to brighten all those cloudy days:

Keep on geeking!

@Summer_Ash, In-house Astrophysicist

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Cloudy with a chance of geek: New science of sunshine and shade

Updated