Earth in 2021

Editor’s note: From extreme weather to volcanic eruptions to simple beauty, the images in this video highlight another year on our planet. The following text is a transcript of the video and includes links to detailed descriptions of each image.

Otherworldly Earth

Extreme Winter Weather Causes U.S. Blackouts
Texas and other central states set records for cold temperatures during a persistent blast of arctic air.

Breakup at Brunt
Two years after it fractured, an iceberg twice the size of Chicago split from an Antarctic ice shelf.

Fagradalsfjall Erupts in Iceland
The volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula lit up clouds from below. Within three months, lava flows covered about 3 square kilometers.

Exceptional Heat Hits Pacific Northwest
In June 2021, all-time temperature records fell in multiple cities in the U.S. and Canada during a “historic and dangerous” heatwave.

River Colors are Changing
In the past 35 years, one third of large rivers in the United States have changed their dominant color, often due to sediments or algae. The images show color change from 1986 to 2020 along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

Cloudscapes Over Sumatra
After crossing the Java Sea, moist air rises as it flows across Indonesia’s mountains. This builds spectacular thunderstorm clouds and anvils.

Lake Mead Drops to a Record Low
The reservoir fell to its lowest level since being filled in the 1930s.

Tidal Vortices in the Sea of Okhotsk
Strong tides create laminar and turbulent flow patterns in waters off far eastern Russia.

Lava Burns a Path Through La Palma
A slow-moving wall of basaltic lava bulldozed its way through communities on one of the Canary Islands.

A Changed Landscape on La Palma
Parts of the island now look more like a moonscape than a tropical paradise.

Falling for Corn
More than one-third of the world’s corn is grown in the United States. In this map, yellow areas depict lands that were planted with corn in 2020. This image shows a swath of the Midwest region just as the corn harvest was nearing its end in 2021.

First Light from Landsat 9
NASA and USGS launched Landsat 9 in September 2021. The first images were ready in a few weeks.

Autumn Color in Japan
Momijiari, or “red leaf hunting,” can last into early December in the country’s southern regions.

New Ocean Data Flowing In
Ocean Surface data from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission became available to the public in June 2021. Late in the year, the new satellite observed a moderate La Niña, visible as an area of lower-than-normal sea level (blue) along and below the equator.

Antarctica Eclipsed
The only total solar eclipse of 2021 was visible from Antarctica, where the Moon blotted out the Sun for nearly two minutes.

The Braided Paraná
Visit NASA Earth Observatory for more daily images of your home planet in 2022.

Video by Kathryn Hansen.