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]

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From Crab Cakes to Pepperoni Rolls: The Most Iconic Dish in Every State
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iStock

Each state has a particular dish or dishes that residents hold especially dear to their hearts. West Virginians are evangelical about pepperoni rolls. Residents of Maine and Connecticut are territorial about their lobster rolls. Colorado makes license plates featuring the pueblo chile. Regional foods inspire incredible loyalty, and though you may be able to find the same chain restaurants in every state, certain foods are indelibly linked to their birthplace.

The team behind Flavored Nation—an event devoted to dishes from all 50 states that’s debuting in Columbus, Ohio in August 2018—put together the map below showing every state’s most iconic food. The dishes were chosen based on independent research, input from social media, and discussions with state tourism boards. Come August, Flavored Nation will bring chefs from all over the country to Columbus to make these dishes during the two-day event.

A map of the U.S. with a photo of a regional food placed within each state
Flavored Nation

On the map you’ll see familiar foods like deep dish pizza, Nashville hot chicken, and Philly cheese steaks alongside less-popular dishes like knoephla (a type of dumpling) in North Dakota, Idaho's finger steaks (battered and deep-fried strips of steak), and Kansas's sour cream and raisin pie.

Some picks may surprise you, like the Coney dog—which isn’t native to Coney Island in New York, but is a Michigan delicacy that involves hot dogs smothered in ground beef. Others are disappointingly mainstream, like Missouri’s barbecue or Iowa’s corn dogs.

The longer you look at the map, the hungrier you’ll get, so you might as well just start planning a road trip so you can try all these snacks for yourself.

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Interactive Map Shows Where Your House Would Have Been 750 Million Years Ago
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iStock

Your neighborhood traveled a long way over several hundred million years to reach the spot it occupies today. To trace that journey over the ages, check out Ancient Earth, an interactive digital map spotted by Co.Design.

Ancient Earth, a collaboration between engineer and Google alum Ian Webster and Paleomap Project creator C.R. Scotese, contains geographical information for the past 750 million years. Start at the beginning and you'll see unrecognizable blobs of land. As you progress through the ages, the land mass Pangaea gradually breaks apart to form the world map we're all familiar with.

To make the transition even more personal, you can enter your street address to see where it would have been located in each period. Five hundred million years ago, for example, New York City was a small island in the southern hemisphere isolated from any major land mass. Around the same time, London was still a part of Pangaea, and it was practically on top of the South Pole. You can use the arrows on your keyboard to flip through the eras or jump from event to event, like the first appearance of multicellular life or the dinosaur extinction.

As you can see from the visualization, Pangaea didn't break into the seven continents seamlessly. Many of the long-gone continents that formed in the process even have names.

[h/t Co.Design]

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