Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features ship tracks off the Pacific coast of North America. The tracks highlight the intersection of several shipping lanes.
According to NASA, the arrangement of lines in this image might look like an oceanic game of tic-tac-toe, but in fact, the grid can be explained by a relatively common atmospheric feature.
When water vapor condenses around tiny particles in ship exhaust, long clouds known as ship tracks develop in the sky over the ocean.
Aerosol pollution is streaming from ships whether it is visible or not. The particles become the most detectable when they interact with low-level clouds and become brighter.
Scientists are working to gain a better understanding of how ship tracks may affect the climate. They want to learn the extent to which ship tracks may contribute to global cooling, for example.
Machine learning is helping experts to identify ship tracks, some of which are undetectable to the human eye. This will help to expand the images available for future research.
The image was captured on December 7, 2021 by the Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi-NPP satellite.
Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory