Images of Our Changing World

These before and after images demonstrate how quickly our dynamic, but fragile planet can change. The Aral Sea in central Asia was once the fourth largest lake in the world. In the 1960’s, the Soviet Union began using it to help grow crops. These images were taken just 14 years apart. Losing the moderating influence of this large body of water has made the region’s winters colder and summers hotter. In 2011, NASA captured a new volcanic island emerging in the Red Sea off the coast of Yemen. It’s part of the Red Sea Rift where the African and Arabian tectonic plates meet, the island chain gained an additional rock in 2013 that doesn’t even appear in this photograph. By tapping water sources beneath the sands of Saudi Arabia, engineers turned the desert into an oasis.

But with only 50 more years of groundwater supply left, the clock is ticking. Farmers could survive though by switching to greenhouse farming with drip irrigation. The Muir Glacier in Alaska has been documented for 120 years. Named for Scottish naturalist and writer John Muir, the glacier used to fill this entire inlet. This photo taken in 2004 shows how warmer temperatures have caused its shocking, 31-mile retreat. It may seem like a winter wonderland, but many of Yellowstone National Park’s 2 million-plus acres are now prone to wildfire. Longer, drier summers are a big problem. But this 2016 image actually shows how Yellowstone has recovered from the 1988 fire that consumed more than half of the park. And in 1984, Brazil plugged the Jamari river with the Samuel hydroelectric dam. The reservoir it created flooded the upstream forest.

The image on the right also captures the effects of deforestation that could cut the Amazon to just 47% of its original size by 2030. The Binhai New Area in China, now a manufacturing powerhouse, was once salt farms and marshland. As you can see, the growth, which began in 1990, has extended into the Bohai Sea and is only expected to continue as the area becomes integrated into the Jing-Jin-Ji megalopolis. The delta where the Omo river meets Africa’s Lake Turkana used to be contained entirely within Ethiopia, but it’s grown so big it’s now located mainly in Kenya. It’s expanded as the lake’s water level has been reduced by less rain, higher temperatures, and agricultural activity. And here we have an extremely remote area in the harsh conditions of Kazakhstan near the Caspian Sea which shows the development of production facilities to take advantage of oil and gas deposits. Those settlements you see are to house workers, which demonstrates the lengths humans will go for a good paying job.

And then we have Iran’s lake Urmia which changed color from green to red in a matter of weeks last summer. The culprit? A combination of algae and bacteria that causes the change when the weather gets hot and the lake begins to evaporate, increasing its salinity, or saltiness. Well I hope this gave you a little more appreciation for the natural world surrounding you wherever you find yourself watching this video. Until next time, for TDC, I’m Bryce Plank..