The past year will go down as one in which extreme weather, and major natural disasters, took a heavy toll
across the globe. Some of the most unforgettable images of these events — and of the planet’s natural cycles — were taken high above Earth by NASA satellites. In March, satellite photos captured the devastation of the Japanese earthquake and tsunami. Satellites also documented the continued melting of polar ice, the ever-widening footprint of human civilization, the beauty of a 500-mile-long phytoplankton bloom, and the enduring forces that have shaped the planet for eons, from volcanoes to wind storms. View some of the memorable images of 2011.