Tag Archives: Mount St. Helens

Amusing Monday: Animations of Earth’s changes

This week, I’d like to show you some animations from space, demonstrating an interesting way to present satellite imagery and data that change over the surface of the Earth.

While these animations are in no way humorous, I am fascinated by the ability to play around with these images for a closer look at global climate change, effects of El Nino, recovery of Mount St. Helens, water-level changes in Arizona’s Lake Powell, Amazon deforestation in Western Brazil and many other time series. There’s even one showing the surface of the sun.

The decade of 1880-89 was cooler than the baseline period of 1951-1980. This is the first slide in an animation you can find in World of Change. Click to enlarge

Go to NASA’s Earth Observatory for World of Change and check out the left column, where you will see a list of 20 animations that you can run. Some give you the option of viewing the sequence from Google Earth, although some do not work well in that format. Notice that you can click on “play” in the lower right corner to observe the animation or click on any of the time periods to advance at your own pace.

Also, the narrative beneath the images explains why certain changes appear as they do. I think it is a great way to learn about these natural and made-made alterations to our environment.

As the year comes to a close, I thought this would be a good time to feature these animations. We are about to learn whether 2010 will be the warmest year on record. Preliminary results from NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center should be out in January.

The decade 2000-09 was warmer than the baseline period of 1951-1980. This is the last slide in the animation in World of Change. Click to enlarge

As Washington Post reporter Juliet Eilperin reported in her blog, “Post Carbon,” this year is likely to be the warmest we have ever measured, barring some temperature anomaly. Despite near-blizzard conditions on the East Coast at the moment, I don’t believe the temperature will create a dent in the average temperature worldwide.

The warmest year on record is currently 2005, according to analyses by NCDC and NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies, which produced the animations. But 1998 was close and is considered the record-holder by a collaborative group in Great Britain. Check out Tom Yulsman’s informative article in Climate Central about how these data are interpreted.

Meanwhile, don’t forget to take a look at the changes over time in Mount St. Helens, the recovery of fire-scarred Yellowstone National Park and any of the animations in World of Change that catch your interest.