World of Change
Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada
Wet and dry years cause the snow cover to fluctuate, but the overall trend has been downward for nearly a decade.
Antarctic Sea Ice
Because of differences in geography and climate, Antarctica sea ice extent is larger than the Arctic’s in winter and smaller in summer. Since 1979, Antarctica’s sea ice has increased slightly, but year-to-year fluctuations are large.
Arctic Sea Ice
NASA satellites have monitored Arctic sea ice since 1978. Starting in 2002, they observed a sharp decline in sea ice extent.
Growing Deltas in Atchafalaya Bay
While the sea overtakes much of the delta plain of the Mississippi River, sediment from the Atchafalaya River is building two new deltas to the west.
Antarctic Ozone Hole
In the early 1980s, scientists began to realize that CFCs were creating a thin spot—a hole—in the ozone layer over Antarctica every spring. This series of satellite images shows the ozone hole on the day of its maximum depth each year from 1979 through 2015.
Mountaintop Mining, West Virginia
Based on data from the Landsat satellites, these natural-color images document the growth of the Hobet mine in Boone County, West Virginia, as it expands from ridge to ridge.
Shrinking Aral Sea
A massive irrigation project has devastated the Aral Sea over the past 50 years. These images show the decline of the Southern Aral Sea in the past decade, as well as the first steps of recovery in the Northern Aral Sea.
Development of Orlando, Florida
Theme parks and other development has turned Central Florida from swampland to the most visited tourist region of the United States.
Water Level in Lake Powell
Combined with human demands, a multi-year drought in the Upper Colorado River Basin caused a dramatic drop in the Colorado River’s Lake Powell in the early part of the 2000s. The lake began to recover in the latter part of the decade, but as of 2015, it was still well below capacity.
Recovery at Mt. St. Helens
The devastation of the May 1980 eruption of Mt. St. Helens and the gradual recovery of the surrounding landscape is documented in this series of satellite images from 1979—2015.
The world is getting warmer, whatever the cause. According to an analysis by NASA scientists, the average global temperature has increased by about 0.8°Celsius (1.4° Fahrenheit) since 1880. Two-thirds of the warming has occurred since 1975.
Columbia Glacier, Alaska
Since 1980, the volume of this glacier that spills into the Prince William Sound has shrunk by half. Climate change may have nudged the process along, but mechanical forces have played the largest role in the ice loss.
The shoreline of Cape Cod provides a visual case study in the evolution and dynamic motion of barrier islands and spits.
The state of Rondônia in western Brazil is one of the most deforested parts of the Amazon. This series shows deforestation on the frontier in the northwestern part of the state between 2000 and 2012.
Fire in Etosha National Park
Prescribed fires should prevent blazes from raging out of control in one of Namibia’s most prized wildlife preserves.
Green Seasons of Maine
Not many places on Earth have year-round greenery and four distinct seasons. The images in this series show the four seasons of Maine, the most forest-covered state in the U.S.A.
Drought Cycles in Australia
Droughts have taken a severe toll on croplands in Southeast Australia during the past decade.
Athabasca Oil Sands
The Athabasca Oil Sands are at once a source of oil, of economic growth, and of environmental concern. This series of images shows the growth of surface mines around the Athabasca River from 1984 to the present.
Burn Recovery in Yellowstone
In 1988, wildfires raced through Yellowstone National Park, consuming hundreds of thousands of acres. This series of Landsat images tracks the landscape’s slow recovery through 2011.
This collection features the strongest hurricane, cyclone, or typhoon (from any ocean) during each of the past 11 years, including storms both infamous and obscure.
Seasons of the Indus River
Fed by glaciers in the Himalayas and Karakorams mountains — and by monsoon rains — the Indus River experiences substantial fluctuations every year. Because the river irrigates 18 million hectares of farmland, the landscape changes along with the river.
Urbanization of Dubai
To expand the possibilities for beachfront tourist development, Dubai, part of the United Arab Emirates, undertook a massive engineering project to create hundreds of artificial islands along its Persian Gulf coastline.
Seasons of Lake Tahoe
Perhaps the most familiar change in our changing world is the annual swing of the seasons. This series of images shows the effects of the seasons on the Lake Tahoe region between 2009 and 2010.
Images of sunspots and UV brightness document the 11-year cycle of solar magnetic activity. The series spans 1999–2010, capturing the most recent solar maximum and minimum, as well as the emergence of solar cycle 24.
Larsen-B Ice Shelf
In early 2002, scientists monitoring daily satellite images of the Antarctic Peninsula watched in amazement as almost the entire Larsen B Ice Shelf splintered and collapsed in just over one month. They had never witnessed such a large area disintegrate so rapidly.
In the years following the Second Gulf War, Iraqi residents began reclaiming the country’s nearly decimated Mesopotamian marshes. This series of images documents the transformation of the fabled landscape between 2000 and 2010.
Yellow River Delta
Once free to wander up and down the coast of the North China Plain, the Yellow River Delta has been shaped by levees, canals, and jetties in recent decades.
El Niño, La Niña, and Rainfall
For many people, El Niño and La Niña mean floods or drought, but the events are actually a warming or cooling of the eastern Pacific Ocean that impacts rainfall. These sea surface temperature and rainfall anomaly images show the direct correlation between ocean temperatures and rainfall during El Niño and La Niña events.
- Snowpack in the Sierra Nevada
- Antarctic Sea Ice
- Arctic Sea Ice
- Growing Deltas in Atchafalaya Bay
- Antarctic Ozone Hole
- Mountaintop Mining, West Virginia
- Shrinking Aral Sea
- Development of Orlando, Florida
- Water Level in Lake Powell
- Recovery at Mt. St. Helens
- Global Temperatures
- Columbia Glacier, Alaska
- Coastline Change
- Amazon Deforestation
- Fire in Etosha National Park
- Green Seasons of Maine
- Drought Cycles in Australia
- Athabasca Oil Sands
- Burn Recovery in Yellowstone
- Severe Storms
- Seasons of the Indus River
- Urbanization of Dubai
- Seasons of Lake Tahoe
- Solar Activity
- Larsen-B Ice Shelf
- Mesopotamia Marshes
- Yellow River Delta
- El Niño, La Niña, and Rainfall
- Global Biosphere