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Photos: Google Earth showcases natural disasters

The planet's best and worst, as seen by ESA's satellites<br /><br />
By Gemma Simpson, Contributor on
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1 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

The planet's best and worst, as seen by ESA's satellites

Google Earth and the European Space Agency (ESA) are showcasing the planet with 130 satellite images added to the planetary prowler from ESA's satellite image library.

Included are images of volcanic eruptions, dust storms and changing ice glaciers from ESA's satellites.

Above is the daunting sight of Hurricane Katrina, as seen by ESA's Envisat satellite, off southern Florida, when it was category one on the Saffir-Simpson scale measuring hurricane intensity on 25 August 2005.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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2 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Looking into the eye of the storm, this satellite image of Katrina shows a dark, smooth sea surface at the hurricane's heart, due to the lack of winds and extreme low pressure there.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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3 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

The emerald isle in all its glory, but the grass of the sea is also putting in an appearance with this image.

The image shows a large aquamarine-coloured phytoplankton bloom stretching across the length of Ireland in the North Atlantic Ocean.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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4 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Holy smoke! London is completely covered by a black cloud!

ESA captured this image following the Buncefield oil depot fire near Hemel Hampstead, which is reported to be Europe's worst peacetime fire.

The image shows the smoke spanning 140 kilometres with Buncefield located at the topmost part of the cloud.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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5 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

An active volcano might not seem like the ideal location to live but around 450 people live on the island of Stromboli, pictured above.

This is a shot of Stromboli in December 2003, one year on from a violent eruption that caused the closure of the island to non-residents for several months.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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6 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Etna got angry on 30 October 2002 when ESA's satellites snapped the volcano's plume of smoke and ash.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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7 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Spring received an unseasonably frosty reception across Europe last year. Taken on 4 March 2005, this image shows the continent covered with snow from Sweden to Italy.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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8 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Iceland lives up to its name. The large white areas across the mainland are glaciers, the largest being the Vatnajokull glacier, to the east of the image.

The plankton put in another appearance off the southern and western coasts, producing large blue-green areas in the sea.

Photo credit: European Space Agency
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9 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

The Saharan sands billow towards the Canary Islands in this image, taken on 1 March 2003.

The wind can move between 60 and 200 million tonnes of fine dust up from the Sahara each year, according to ESA.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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10 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

A sandstorm obscures the border between India and Pakistan's desert state of Rajastan in this satellite image.

Most of the north-west of Rajastan is covered with the Thar or Great India Desert, which extends into Pakistan. Sandstorms rising in the Thar are a common characteristic of the harsh January to June dry season.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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11 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

The River Nile is enhanced in this satellite image to uncover the sedimentation from the delta into the Mediterranean.

The waterway's many channels are clearly visible with the blue plume offshore caused by sediment being pumped into the sea.

The black areas represent cities on the delta: El Mansure, Tanta and El Mahalla el Kubra are the three cities in the centre of the delta, with Cairo visible at the bottom of the image.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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12 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

ESA's microsatellite zooms in on some of the 1,192 coral islands of the Maldives in the Indian Ocean.

The Republic of Maldives rests on top of an ancient volcanic mountain range and is scatted across 90,000 square kilometres of ocean, about 700 kilometres west of Sri Lanka.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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13 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

This image might look a little too green for the North Pole but shows the Arctic's Lena River Delta within the Laptev Sea coast of northern Siberia.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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14 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

At 4,835 metres high, the Kliuchevskoi volcano in the Russian Far East is the tallest, as well as one of the most active, volcanoes in the Kamchatka Peninsula.

The surrounding snows of this volcano are largely uninhabited but Kliuchevskoi can still cause chaos to air traffic, with international routes extending over the peninsula.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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15 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

This polo mint-esque island is part of the Society Island chain, forming part of the overseas territory of French Polynesia.

The atoll is actually made up of a deep lagoon, surrounded by submerged reefs and a small inlet.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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16 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

Part of Brazil's Amazon Basin is shown in this satellite image, almost entirely covered by tropical rainforest and interlaced by rivers, including the almighty Amazon.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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17 of 17 Gemma Simpson/ZDNET

An iceberg of Titanic-downing standards knocks a block off the Drygalski Ice Tongue in Antarctica on 30 March 2006.

The floating Drygalski Ice Tongue extends 80 kilometres into the ocean, and if it ever broke loose, scientists fear it could alter ocean currents and change the region's climate.

Photo credit: European Space Agency

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