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NASA Satellite Images Show Polluted Rivers From Hurricane Florence Flowing Into Ocean

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CHAPEL HILL, N.C. (CBS) -- Flooding from Hurricane Florence in the Carolinas is polluting rivers and the Atlantic Ocean. The News & Observer reports that a NASA satellite shows dark, polluted water flowing from rivers into the ocean.

Florence dumped nearly 8 trillion gallons of rain across North Carolina, leading to devastating flooding. NASA's satellite images show the flooding has polluted creeks, rivers and streams in the state, according to The News & Observer.

The images also show how discolored the water is from the pollution.

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"Organic matter – such as leaves, roots, or bark – contain pigments and chemicals (such as tannins) that can color the water when they dissolve. Depending on the amount of dissolved particles, the water in natural-color imagery can appear blue, green, yellow, or brown as the CDOM concentration increases," NASA told The News & Observer.

Joshua Stevens, the lead data visualization and cartographer at NASA, said that the storm "brought a surge of new water to North Carolina."

"Streams overflow with colored dissolved organic matter (CDOM) as carbon moves from land to sea," Stevens tweeted. "The dark plumes shooting into the Atlantic were seen by Landsat 8 two days ago."

Scientists tell The News & Observer that water discoloration from pollutants can lead to mass fish kills and other environmental issues.

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"In the discharges after hurricanes Floyd and Matthew, these dead zones grew large enough to affect shellfish and finfish habitats for miles," Hans Paerl, a scientist at the University of North Carolina, told The News & Observer. "Fish kills lasted for months."

The storm killed at least 44 people across North and South Carolina and Virginia.

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