NASA’s Terra satellite captured a cloud-free view of northeastern Japan in the wake of a devastating earthquake and tsunami reveal extensive flooding along the coast. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) acquired the top image of the Sendai region on March 14, 2011, at 1:15 UTC. Scrolling over the image reveals an image taken by Terra MODIS on February 26, 2011, is provided as a point of reference.
Water is black or dark blue in these images. It is difficult to see the coastline in the March 14 image, but a thin green line outlines the shore. This green line is higher-elevation land that is above water, presumably preventing the flood of water from returning to the sea. The flood indicator on the lower image illustrates how far inland the flood extends.
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.
The paved surfaces in the city of Sendai color it brown. Sendai is located near the center of the arc of the coastline. By scrolling over the image, the extent of flooding in the coastal regions of Sendai can be appreciated.