As NASA begins its third decade of global ocean and land measurements, these discoveries point to important questions about how ecosystems will respond to a changing climate and broad-scale changes in human interaction with the land.
Most of the data is gleaned from NASA's SeaWiFS (Sea-Viewing Wide Field-of-View Sensor) satellite, which continuously monitored algae blooms on surface of the planet's oceans, as well as information supplied by the space agency's Terra, Aqua and Suomi NPP weather satellites. The polar ice caps can be seen expanding and shrinking with the alternating seasons.
"As the satellite archive expands, you see more and more dynamics emerging", said Jeffrey Masek, chief of the Biospheric Sciences Laboratory at NASA.
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NASA oceanographer Jeremy Werdell, who took part in the project, says it's like watching Earth breathe.
NASA launched this satellite in 1997, allowing them to track life on earth through 20 years of satellite imaging.
In considerably smaller Lake Erie, one of the five Great Lakes in North America, more and more contaminating algae blooms are apparent - appearing red and yellow.
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All this data can provide resources for policymakers as well as commercial fishermen and many others, according to Werdell.
And as concentrations of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere continue to rise and warm the climate, NASA's observations could also play a critical role in monitoring carbon as it moves through the Earth system.
Scientists can use the satellite imagery to help predict where crops will both thrive and suffer and inform farmers how to respond.
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