National Geographic : 1990 Nov
On Assignment THERE'S HARDLY A CLOUD in the sky over North America after CHRIS CHIESA (right) selects 50 clear-weather sat ellite images of different regions to create the clearest ever mosaic of that continent for the new National GeographicAtlas of the World. To produce this mosaic for the Society, Chris and his colleagues at the Environmental Research Insti tute of Michigan spent months writing software and reviewing hundreds of images recorded by NOAA weather satellites. Match ing one swath of the continent to another for a single mosaic "was a lot like putting together a jigsaw puzzle," says Chris. Color varia tions were blended, leaving a seam less image rich in such details as land formations, settlement pat terns, and vegetation (red). Each of the mosaic's 81 million picture elements, or pixels, represents one square kilometer of earth's surface. Such high resolution makes for exciting science as well as vivid illustration. Concern about global issues of ozone depletion, defor estation, and climate change has galvanized science internationally. The U. S. alone plans to spend more than a billion dollars on earth-systems research next year. Digital data bases are an essen tial tool in that effort. The seven continental mosaics assembled for the world atlas--a collaboration involving numerous private firms and government agencies here and abroad-form one such data base. National Geographic is helping to make the set available in computer ready formats next year, at cost. For information, contact: Cus tomer Services Section, Earth Resources Observation Systems Data Center, U. S. Geological Sur vey, Sioux Falls, SD 57198. Changing people's perspective comes as naturally as running on wet sand to Santa Monica, Califor nia, artist TOM VAN SANT (left). Well-known for his public murals and sculpture, he now takes on projects of global proportions. Also using satellite images, Tom and colleague Van Warren assem bled a unique portrait of the planet (pages 127-9). It reveals colors so true to life and details so crisp that one can imagine zooming in to find a neighbor busy in the garden. Here he applies earth's image, sectioned into 36 gores, to one of the fiberglass GeoSpheres he is designing. Surrounded by projec tors in its own special "Earth Sit uation Room," the rotating GeoSphere will simulate global patterns-from weather and whale migrations to oil tanker routes. "The goal," he says, "is to change our consciousness from resource users to resource managers. There's no alternative." NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC(ISSN 0027-9358) IS PUBLISHEDMONTHLYBY THENATIONALGEOGRAPHICSOCIETY,17THANDM STS. N.W ., WASHINGTON,D. C. 20036. $2100 A YEAR,$2.65 A COPY. SECOND-CLASSPOSTAGEPAID AT WASHINGTON,D.C., AND ELSEWHERE.POSTMASTER:SENDADDRESSCHANGESTO NATIONALGEOGRAPHIC,P.O. BOX2174. WASHINGTON,D.C. 20013.