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NASA Earth Observatory

Mapping 13 Years of Clouds on Earth

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NASA Earth Observatory

Today’s forecast: cloudy with a chance of maps. The NASA Earth Observatory has condensed more than a decade of data from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) to create a single map of Earth’s average cloud cover for the last 13 years. 

Around two-thirds of the Earth’s surface is covered by clouds at any given point, especially concentrated over the oceans. Clouds are so prevalent in the atmosphere that when NASA does manage to capture satellite images of Earth without clouds, it’s news

MODIS cloud observations from July 2002 to April 2015 show Earth has some perpetually sunny regions. (Dark blue indicates fewer clouds on average, while white indicates frequent clouds.) Notably, the deserts of northern Africa and Saudi Arabia show up as clear dark spots in an otherwise opaque Blue Marble. You can also pick out certain mountain ranges based on the phenomenon of rain shadows: Mountains form a kind of wind break, protecting the region on the far side. As a result, one side of the mountain range forms clouds and remains lush and green, while the other side dries out. This pattern contributes to the dry weather west of the Sierra Nevadas in California’s Death Valley and west of the Andes Mountains in Chile’s Atacama Desert.

Cloud cover from January 2015 to April 2015. Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

By contrast, Europe and the upper half of South America seem to be perpetually hazy. Skies are more likely to be cloudy near the equator, where tropical weather patterns create thunderstorms. Clouds are also more likely on the western edge of continents, because of the way ocean water circulates due to Earth’s rotation on its axis: water at the surface of the ocean gets pushed west, away from the western edge of continents, and cool water from the bottom of the ocean rises to replace it. 

See more cloud maps from MODIS here.

[h/t: Scientific American]

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Land Cover CCI, ESA
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Afternoon Map
European Space Agency Releases First High-Res Land Cover Map of Africa
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Land Cover CCI, ESA

This isn’t just any image of Africa. It represents the first of its kind: a high-resolution map of the different types of land cover that are found on the continent, released by The European Space Agency, as Travel + Leisure reports.

Land cover maps depict the different physical materials that cover the Earth, whether that material is vegetation, wetlands, concrete, or sand. They can be used to track the growth of cities, assess flooding, keep tabs on environmental issues like deforestation or desertification, and more.

The newly released land cover map of Africa shows the continent at an extremely detailed resolution. Each pixel represents just 65.6 feet (20 meters) on the ground. It’s designed to help researchers model the extent of climate change across Africa, study biodiversity and natural resources, and see how land use is changing, among other applications.

Developed as part of the Climate Change Initiative (CCI) Land Cover project, the space agency gathered a full year’s worth of data from its Sentinel-2A satellite to create the map. In total, the image is made from 90 terabytes of data—180,000 images—taken between December 2015 and December 2016.

The map is so large and detailed that the space agency created its own online viewer for it. You can dive further into the image here.

And keep watch: A better map might be close at hand. In March, the ESA launched the Sentinal-2B satellite, which it says will make a global map at a 32.8 feet-per-pixel (10 meters) resolution possible.

[h/t Travel + Leisure]

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National Low Income Housing Coalition
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Live Smarter
How Many Hours You Need to Work to Pay Rent in Each State
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National Low Income Housing Coalition

According to a recent report by the National Low Income Housing Coalition (NLIHC), a full-time worker in the U.S. must earn, on average, $17.14 per hour to comfortably afford a one-bedroom apartment at fair market rent [PDF]. That said, even the nation’s highest minimum wage—which, starting in 2020, is slated to be pegged at $15 in Washington D.C.—isn’t enough to meet these numbers.

This raises the question: How many hours would the average minimum wage worker in each state need to work per week to afford their one-bedroom abodes, without paying more than 30 percent of their overall income? (Spoiler: Those earning the bare federal minimum of $7.25 per hour would need to work 94.5 hours per week—the equivalent of 2.4 full time jobs—to achieve this feat.)

The NLIHC broke down their comprehensive nationwide findings in the map above:

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