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World Of Change
Updated Nov 7, 2018
World of Change: 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.
One of the major rivers of Bangladesh has been growing in size, transforming in shape, and changing in location for decades. Each twist and zigzag of the river tells a different geologic story about the power of erosion.
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.
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 2017.
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.
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.
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.
World of Change: Ice Loss in Glacier National Park
Shrinking since at least the early 1900s, the ice cover in Glacier National Park is expected to keep declining until only insignificant lumps remain. These images show changes to the park's ice and surrounding landscape since 1984.
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.
Fed by glaciers in the Himalayas and Karakorams — 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.
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.
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.
World of Change: Collapse of the 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 Persian 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 2009.
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.
Earth would not be the planet that it is without its biosphere, the sum of its life. This series of images illustrates the variations in the average productivity of the global biosphere from 1999 to 2008.