The Water Planet

    Newer Older

    NASA image acquired July 10, 2005

    Viewed from space, the most striking feature of our planet is the water. In both liquid and frozen form, it covers 75% of the Earth’s surface. It fills the sky with clouds. Water is practically everywhere on Earth, from inside the rocky crust to inside our cells.

    This detailed, photo-like view of Earth is based largely on observations from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite. It is one of many images of our watery world featured in a new story examining water in all of its forms and functions. Here is an excerpt: “In all, the Earth’s water content is about 1.39 billion cubic kilometers (331 million cubic miles), with the bulk of it, about 96.5%, being in the global oceans. As for the rest, approximately 1.7% is stored in the polar icecaps, glaciers, and permanent snow, and another 1.7% is stored in groundwater, lakes, rivers, streams, and soil.

    Only a thousandth of 1% of the water on Earth exists as water vapor in the atmosphere. Despite its small amount, this water vapor has a huge influence on the planet. Water vapor is a powerful greenhouse gas, and it is a major driver of the Earth’s weather and climate as it travels around the globe, transporting heat with it.

    For human needs, the amount of freshwater for drinking and agriculture is particularly important. Freshwater exists in lakes, rivers, groundwater, and frozen as snow and ice. Estimates of groundwater are particularly difficult to make, and they vary widely. Groundwater may constitute anywhere from approximately 22 to 30% of fresh water, with ice accounting for most of the remaining 78 to 70%.”

    NASA image by Robert Simmon and Marit Jentoft-Nilsen, based on MODIS data.

    Instrument: Terra - MODIS

    NASA image use policy.

    NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

    Follow us on Twitter

    Like us on Facebook

    Find us on Instagram

    Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

    Andrea LD, gsikich1, and 228 other people added this photo to their favorites.

    View 10 more comments

    1. 8minutestorm 54 months ago | reply

      we are so lucky!

    2. marcellucray 39 months ago | reply

      ....a lightning shot......great

    3. lucie.robinson 38 months ago | reply

      Fantastic imgage and love reading the text that goes with these.

    4. Salaatti 37 months ago | reply

      So beautiful!

    5. colorblindxs2 37 months ago | reply

      Someone should make a finger ring out of this photo. Beautiful... I'll take a size 6

    6. I is 37 months ago | reply

      so round

    7. Unlucky_Alf [deleted] 37 months ago | reply


    8. dodagp 37 months ago | reply

      So wonderful !!!
      Looks like a marble ball !
      The liquid and frozen form of water covers 75% of the Earth's surface.
      Isn't it amazing ? Almost the same percentage as in the human body ...

    9. manyunfeidu 37 months ago | reply

      Let's love it!

    10. LizaLovesNature 37 months ago | reply

      She really is grand to me:) Beautiful Photo!

    11. zegloff 19 months ago | reply


      Thanks for posting your photographs on flickr Creative Commons. I loved this picture, and I used it in a blog post entitled "Why Numbers Suck. And What You Can Do About It."

      The link to the post with your photo is here:

      Thanks again. I really appreciate you sharing your work!

      Cheers, Z Egloff

    keyboard shortcuts: previous photo next photo L view in light box F favorite < scroll film strip left > scroll film strip right ? show all shortcuts