The deep greens of Ireland are dramatically evident in this true-color image acquired by the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite on April 2, 2021.
These intense greens are the result of moderate temperatures and moist air. The warm currents in the North Atlantic Drift help moderate the climate of the country, while the moist ocean air also contributes to the abundant rainfall that showers Ireland lightly and regularly. Both encourage lush vegetative growth which gives the island its gorgeous—and famous—green color.
While satellite images illustrate why Ireland justly earned the nickname of “The Emerald Island”, history tells us that the moniker was popular long before the first rocket launch or first image returned to Earth. The term is said to have been first used by William Drennan, a Belfast-born poet, physician, and political radical who lived from 1754 until 1820. Drennan first used the term in 1795 to describe Ireland (poetically known as Erin, a term derived from the name of an Irish goddess) in his poem “When Erin First Rose”. In celebration of the fact that April is the Academy of American of Poets’ National Poetry Month—and in honor of the upcoming Irish National Poetry Day on April 29—please enjoy the first lines of William Drennan’s poem. It appears to be a fitting description of Ireland.
When Erin first rose from the dark swelling flood, God bless’d the green island and saw it was good; The em’rald of Europe, it sparkled and shone, In the ring of the world the most precious stone. In her sun, in her soil, in her station thrice blest, With her back towards Britain, her face to the West, Erin stands proudly insular, on her steep shore, And strikes her high harp ‘mid the ocean’s deep roar.