NASA Time-Lapse Footage Depicts The Incredible Effects of Climate Change

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Climate change can be difficult to recognize up-close, on a human scale — the floods, storms, and heat waves it causes can appear, on a year-to-year basis, slightly more intense than what was seen during past events.

NASA Time-Lapse Footage Depicts The Incredible Effects of Climate Change

Climate change can be difficult to recognize up-close, on a human scale — the floods, storms, and heat waves it causes can appear, on a year-to-year basis, slightly more intense than what was seen during past events.


However, if you zoom out, the effects of climate change become more visible.


That is what NASA has been doing for several decades now. Through its satellites, especially the Sea-viewing Wide Field-of-view Sensor (SeaWiFS), the US space agency can track planetary-scale events over long periods of time.


Then through the collapsing magic of time-lapse footage, all that information becomes startlingly understandable to the untrained eye.


NASA has recently released a time-lapse compilation of the global video it gathered related to the twentieth anniversary using the SeaWiFS satellite.


“These are incredibly evocative visualizations of our living planet,” Gene Carl Feldman, an oceanographer at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center said in a report. “That’s the Earth, that is it breathing every single day, changing with the seasons, responding to the Sun, to the changing winds, ocean currents, and temperatures."


The video depicts continental and ocean-wide changes occurring, visible as shifting concentrations of color. Some changes are of the seasonal variety, such as plants coming back to life in the spring, while others are stoked by accumulating carbon in the atmosphere.


“As the surface waters warm, it creates a stronger boundary between the deep, cold, nutrient-rich waters and the sunlit, generally nutrient-poor surface waters,” Feldman said.


As a result, phytoplankton often can't get nutrients as well as “biological deserts.”


“It’s not just the amount of food, it’s the location and timing that are just as critical,” Feldman continued. “Spring bloom is coming earlier, and that’s going to impact the ecosystem in ways we don’t yet understand.”


Those changes are expected to result in reactions across marine ecosystems, reports NASA.


On land, one among the most visually striking sequences of images took place in Alaska. Some of the state’s most significant forest fires in history occurred in 2004 and 2015, NASA notes.


Ultimately, the twenty years worth of images distills the slow-moving, sometimes inevitable, changes which are happening to the planet and could serve as a wake-up call, particularly in the United States, where climate action is still a stubbornly partisan issue.



Earlier in the year, the United States was battered by three powerful hurricanes which gave a glimpse of the future of climate change and prompted enormous relief efforts.


Real-time disasters could serve as catalysts for policy change. But taking the long view, as NASA does, provides more solid footing for action.


Global Citizen campaigns on the Global Goals, that call on countries to mitigate climate change. You can also take action on this issue here.

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