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NASA/NOAA satellite shows Earth in green

Scientists have gathered a year's worth of satellite observations to create an image showing just how much of Earth is covered in green.

The satellite is NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Suomi NPP, which is able to detect subtle differences in vegetation around the globe. Compiling the data resulted in a picture revealing the world's lushest forests and most barren deserts.

"The darkest green areas are the lushest in vegetation, while the pale colors are sparse in vegetation cover either due to snow, drought, rock, or urban areas," according to NOAA. "Satellite data from April 2012 to April 2013 was used to generate these animations and images."

Go here to see the map in high resolution, to zoom in on anywhere around the globe.

The green on the map the scientists created isn't simply a visible image of trees and leaves from space -- the satellite's Visible and Infrared Imaging and Radiometer Suite senses both visible and near-infrared light. The near-infrared detection examines how much energy a spot on the Earth's surface reflects back into space, and the instrument can distinguish between vegetation and rock or other surfaces more closely than other monitors, according to NOAA.

Visit this NOAA site for more information about how the image was created.

Suomi NPP orbits the Earth about 14 times a day, observing nearly the entire surface. It is used to monitor atmospheric conditions used in weather forecasting models, ozone levels, wildfires, land changes, ice movement, sea surface temperatures and sources of global heating.

The satellite is managed by four scientists at the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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