CLOSE
NASA Earth Observatory
NASA Earth Observatory

Mapping 13 Years of Clouds on Earth

NASA Earth Observatory
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]

arrow
Afternoon Map
Monthly Internet Costs in Every Country

Thanks to the internet, people around the world can conduct global research, trade tips, and find faraway friends without ever leaving their couch. Not everyone pays the same price for these digital privileges, though, according to new data visualizations spotted by Thrillist.

To compare internet user prices in each country, cost information site HowMuch.net created a series of maps. The data comes courtesy of English market research consultancy BDRC and Cable.co.uk, which teamed up to analyze 3351 broadband packages in 196 nations between August 18, 2017 and October 12, 2017.

In the U.S., for example, the average cost for internet service is $66 per month. That’s substantially more than what browsers pay in neighboring Mexico ($27) and Canada ($55). Still, we don’t have it bad compared to either Namibia or Burkina Faso, where users shell out a staggering $464 and $924, respectively, for monthly broadband access. In fact, internet in the U.S. is far cheaper than what residents in 113 countries pay, including those in Saudi Arabia ($84), Indonesia ($72), and Greenland ($84).

On average, internet costs in Asia and Russia tend to be among the lowest, while access is prohibitively expensive in sub-Saharan Africa and in certain parts of Oceania. As for the world’s cheapest internet, you’ll find it in Ukraine and Iran.

Check out the maps below for more broadband insights, or view HowMuch.net’s full findings here.

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

Map of Internet costs in each country created by information site HowMuch.net.
HowMuch.net

[h/t Thrillist]

nextArticle.image_alt|e
Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
arrow
technology
Explore Google Street View With a Soundtrack Chosen by AI
Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0
Tony Hisgett, Wikimedia Commons // CC BY 2.0

Google Street View is the closest you can get to globetrotting without leaving your living room. The technology features 360-degree views of thousands of locations that anyone can view by dragging their cursor across their computer screen. Now, a media artist has made the immersive experience even more realistic. As Co.Design reports, Nao Tokui’s new project Imaginary Soundscape pairs Google Street View locations with soundtracks chosen by AI.

The background noises are designed to feel like they were recorded in the same place that was photographed. Views of the inside of the Spanish church Sagrada Familia come with the sound of chatter echoing against high ceilings; pictures of the Westminster Bridge Road in London are accompanied by soft engine roars and background conversation in British accents; the view of a forest pilgrimage path in Japan is paired with chipping insects and birds and snapping twigs.

But unlike the images, the noises aren’t attached to each specific place. Rather, they’re open source audio tracks the AI system thought would fit well with the scene based on its visual information. Tokui and his team used two neural networks developed by MIT to build Imaginary Soundscape. The results, which include background noise for all of Street View, are available on the project’s website.

Search your address to see if the AI gets it right, or just select “random” to get an idea of the full range of soundtracks. The program isn't always spot-on (pictures of an empty Tokyo Station are accompanied by firework sounds, for example), but when it is, it’s easy to feel you’ve been transported away from your computer for a moment.

[h/t Co.Design]

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios