Sunglinting Seas

Sunlight reflecting off the Earth can reveal a remarkably rich picture of our planet’s activity. The silver-gray areas seen in this satellite image are sunglint, where lots of light is reflected back to space. Sunglint occurs in regions with very few waves; more waves – like in the bluer areas – mean more directions in which light can be scattered. The reason for these rough and smooth waters is atmospheric: the prevailing summer winds blow across the Aegean from the north. In open water, that wind drives up the waves, but rocky islands disrupt the flow, leaving “wind shadows” on their southern, leeward sides where the waves are smaller. (Image credit: J. Schmaltz; via NASA Earth Observatory)

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