These photographs, taken from NASA’s Images of Change section show how the world has changed over the years.
The first photograph was taken in 1882, while the second one was taken in 2005. It is easy to see the degree of change that has taken place in around 120 years, and while 120 years may seem like a lot to us, it really isn’t that long if you keep in mind that the earth is billions of years old.
The Omai Gold Mine was one of the largest open-pit gold mines in the world. In 1995, waste from the mine overflowed its retention dam and released four million cubic meters of cyanide-bearing tailings into the Omai River. Cyanide in the slag along the river reached 14 times the fatal level. The mine was closed in 2005.
These images show the growth of Beijing from 1977 to 2011. Blue tones represent buildings and pavement, while red tones indicate natural and agricultural vegetation. In the 1970s, many people who spent the Cultural Revolution in the countryside returned to Beijing, and others came seeking jobs. Beijing’s 2012 population was estimated at just over 17 million.
Only a few centimeters (about one inch) of rain falls in the Saudi Arabian desert each year, but crops still grow thanks to aquifers deep below the surface. Hydrologists estimate that it will be economical to pump this water only for about 50 more years. Healthy vegetation appears bright green while dry vegetation looks orange. The photos were taken in 1987, 2000 and 2012.
Carbon dioxide levels in our atmosphere are rising. Both images show the spreading of carbon dioxide around the globe as it follows large-scale patterns of circulation. The color codes in these two pictures are different in order to account for the carbon dioxide increase from 2003 to 2007. If the color bar for 2003 were to be used for 2007, the resulting 2007 map would be saturated with reddish colors, and the fine structure of the distribution of carbon dioxide obscured.
The Mirani Dam on the Dasht River in southern Pakistan was completed in 2006. The resulting reservoir provides water for drinking, irrigation and hydroelectric power. Heavy rains in 2007 led to flooding that displaced more than 15,000 people. The left-hand image shows the region before the dam was built. The right-hand image shows the dam in 2011 with the expanded agriculture that the dam’s water supports.
Mar Chiquita, the largest of the naturally-occurring saline lakes in Argentina, has been shrinking and getting saltier. Its water comes primarily from the Dulce River, and increasing use of the river’s water for irrigation, coupled with long periods of drought, have diminished the lake’s water level and increased its salinity.
The nearly 15,000-ft-high Matterhorn mountain, located in the Alps on the border between Italy and Switzerland. Left: August 16, 1960 at 9.00 am. Right: August 18, 2005 at 9.10 am.
Nassau, on the island of New Providence, is the capital city of the Bahamas. Its population has grown from 8,000 in 1844 to more than 220,000 today. Deforestation has made the island more vulnerable to storms. In the 2006 image, Nassau appears as a more extensive urban center compared to the 1973 image, and the coasts show more construction, especially in the northwest section of the image.
The Mato Grosso state in southwest Brazil. Left: 1992. Right: July 28, 2006. Deforestation has been proceeding at a rate of about 20,000 sq km per year, in the Amazon. In the left image about 25 percent of the area has been cleared. In 2006, the ASTER image shows over 80 percent of the rainforest gone, cleared for pastureland by commercial and speculative interests, and poorly planned government policies.
All images from climate.nasa.gov