This passed month, NASA released a visual time lapse like no other. A seen by satellites, the 2 ½ minute video packs in the Earth’s physical changes over the last 20 years. Unsurprisingly, the Earth can be seen to undergo changes as the seasons develop, but added to that, there are key differences noted during the same seasons over the duration of the two-decade examination. Observations like plant life on land and within the ocean, along with the recession of polar ice caps are main focal points of the project.
Undersea life is depicted with colors ranging from green, blue, red, and purple. The colors describe the abundance of life respectively. Scientists were able to identify an algae bloom in the Pacific along the equator between the years 1997-1998. This is shown in the video with a large green line, representing positive biology growth. However, Lake Erie can be seen with alarming amounts of red and yellow, representing contaminating blooms.
The most expected realization from the map was the deterioration of ice caps over time in both the Northern Hemisphere and the Artic. Hopefully this data will help policymakers focus in on the most concerning changes happening to our Earth and prioritize when it comes to rules and regulations.
Jeremy Werdell, a NASA oceanographer that took part in the visualization project also was able to point out that spring was coming earlier in the Northern Hemisphere, and fall was lasting much longer over the years. While it took three months to complete the two-minute video, Werdell sees it as a major breakthrough. He says that “it’s like watching the Earth breathe. It’s really remarkable.”
The instruments used in the making of the visualization include NASA/NOAA Visible infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite and the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer Credits: NASA. The technology is extremely high-tech, but scientists predict the imaging we see now will increase in quality and clarity over the years. This video, and all similar future global change visualizations are going to be used to analyze phytoplankton populations, examine the ever-changing vegetation structure in the Artic, analyze crop yields, and monitor the undersea environment.
The two and a half minute video shows a very gradual change, but important nonetheless. It can be viewed on varying platforms online under the name “Our Living Planet From Space”.