Released on July 24, 2013
During photosynthesis, plants emit fluorescence – a form of light invisible to the naked eye but detectable by satellites orbiting hundreds of miles above Earth. NASA scientists established a method to turn this satellite data into global maps of the subtle phenomenon in more detail than ever before.
The new maps, released in 2013, provide a 16-fold increase in spatial resolution and a 3-fold increase in temporal resolution over the first proof-of-concept maps released in 2011. This lets scientists use fluorescence to observe, for example, variation in the length of the growing season.
A visualization of the phenomenon shows global land plant fluorescence data collected from 2007 to 2011, combined to depict a single average year. Gray indicates regions with little or no fluorescence; red, pink and white indicate regions of high fluorescence.