World & Nation

NASA releases satellite images of post-earthquake Japan

Los Angeles Times Staff Writer

NASA released the first satellite images of post-earthquake and -tsunami flooding in northeastern Japan on Saturday.

The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured contrasting views of Japan’s Sendai region at 10:30 a.m. Saturday and Feb. 26.

Water appears black or dark blue and a thin, green line outlines the shore, which is above water, presumably preventing the floodwater from returning to sea. The “flood” label shows how far inland floodwaters extended.

Both images were made with infrared and visible light, a combination that increases the contrast between muddy water and land. Plant-covered land is green, while snow-covered land is pale blue. Clouds are white and pale blue. Paved surfaces in the city of Sendai appear brown.


The satellite system also detected a fire burning near the shore north of Sendai, marked with a red box and surrounded by floodwater. The image acquired a few hours later shows a dark plume of smoke near Sendai and sediment fanning out into the ocean along the coast. Both images are from the MODIS Rapid Response System, which provides twice-daily images of Japan.

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