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China's Tian Shan mountains

23 December 2016

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Sentinel-2A takes us over northwestern China near the border with Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan in this false-colour image from 18 November 2016.

The mountains pictured are part of the Tian Shan range, which stretches about 2800 km across this border region, making it one of the longest mountain ranges in Central Asia.

The glaciers of Tian Shan have lost about a quarter of their ice mass since the 1960s, and scientists estimate that half of the remaining glaciers will have melted by 2050. Glaciers are a key indicator of climate change, and their melting poses threats to communities living downstream.

We know well that snow and clouds are both white - had this image been in true colour, we wouldn't be able to differentiate between the two. But Sentinel-2's imager can view the area in different parts of the spectrum, and can separate clouds from snow. In this image, clouds are white while snow appears blue. This is particularly important for mapping snow cover.

Tian Shan mountains

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Discover more about our planet with the Earth from Space video programme. Join ESA every Friday at 10:00 CEST for an 800 km-high tour with spectacular images from Earth-observing satellites.

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The Earth Watching project is an ESA/ESRIN service to help local authorities and to promote the benefits of remote sensing data during emergencies, sending images and articles to newspapers, magazines and TV stations.

The Earth Watching website features not only imagery of natural disasters, but also promotes various satellite remote sensing applications through images and articles. Some examples are shown in the special events part of the website.

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