June 22, 2012 -- Sediment-laden water pours from the Amazon River into the Atlantic, giving the ocean a coffee-brown color for hundreds of miles off the Brazilian coast in this fantastic photo taken from the ISS by European astronaut André Kuipers.
Snaking 4,000 miles across South America from the Peruvian Andes through the rainforest and ultimately the sea, the Amazon is the second-longest river in the world and the largest by far in sheer volume. One-fifth of all the fresh water flowing into the ocean comes from the Amazon. Its enormous watershed drains water from 5 countries -- Brazil, Peru, Bolivia, Ecuador and Colombia -- and during flood season it can swell up to 20 miles wide in some sections.
André's view of the Amazon's delta shows a sky above the rainforest filled with "popcorn" clouds. Created by rising air filled with moisture from photosynthesizing plants, popcorn clouds are a common sight above the rainforest.
A bright glimmer of sunglint can be seen at the lower right, sunlight reflected off river waters just inland of Soure, Brazil.
And speaking of Brazil, the UN's Rio+20 Conference on Sustainable Development is in its last day at the time of this writing. World leaders, along with thousands of participants from governments, the private sector, NGOs and other groups, have come together in Rio de Janeiro to discuss how we can reduce poverty, advance social equity and ensure environmental protection on an increasingly crowded planet to ensure a the future that's beneficial for everyone.
View the summit webcasthere.
--by Jason Major