Nasa satellite images show how the climate crisis is transforming the planet

Before-and-after pictures show impact of floods, fires and melting ice

Liam James
Friday 08 January 2021 16:41 GMT
Colour-altered images show the extent of flooding on the James river in South Dakota
Colour-altered images show the extent of flooding on the James river in South Dakota

Nasa has released a series of satellite pictures which capture the impact of extreme weather events around the world in 2020.

The new pictures, part of a wider project called ‘Images of Change’, were released by Nasa's Global Climate Change group and are mostly composed of before-and-after shots which demonstrate the damage left in the wake of climate related events such as severe floods and wildfires.

Also included are pictures showing more prolonged measures of climate change, such as receding glaciers and desertification.

One pair of pictures shows the Mekong River, an important lifeline to nearly 60 million people across southeast Asia, changing colour.  

While the water normally appears brown due to floating sediments, a section of the river in Thailand turned a bright blue in 2020.  

Mekong River in Thailand is seen before and after changing colour in 2020

Scientists said the change was due to shallow, slower moving waters not carrying as much sediment after a lengthy drought.

Record large pools of meltwater on Antarctica’s second-biggest glacier in 2020 are seen below a picture of the same location two years earlier

Nasa also captured pictures of Antarctica's second largest ice shelf showing record amounts of meltwater. 

Scientists were concerned by the level of water, which was the highest in nearly 50 years of observation.

Eastern Bangladesh seen before and after unusually severe flooding in the 2020 monsoon season

Particularly striking are pictures of flooding, such as in last year’s monsoon season in Bangladesh, where large areas of land are shown dry (before) then submerged (after).

Pictures taken before and during the Kincade wildfire in California, which burned nearly 78,000 acres

Nasa said the 2020 monsoon season was unusually severe and a report from the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs found more than 500 people were killed and more than 167,000 families were displaced across Bangladesh.

Lonar Lake in India is seen before and after turning red. How the change took place remains a mystery

Not all of the pictures show climate change disasters. There is one pair showing India's Lonar Lake changing colour from green to pink, an as yet unexplained phenomenon.

Alaska’s Mount Shishaldin before and during volcanic eruptions in January 2020

There are also plenty of pictures of volcanic eruptions. On the Philippine island of Luzon, the Taal volcano erupted on 12 January 2020 depositing wet, heavy ash over the lush green landscape.

Ash from the Taal Volcano eruption coats the Philippine island of Luzon

As the ash dried, it hardened from a mud-like consistency to that of cement, damaging most of the island's crops and other vegetation.

Hundreds more before and after pictures from Nasa’s Images of Change project can be viewed on the agencies climate change website.

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