Birds-eye view

7 satellite images reveal an urgent new phase of the climate crisis

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It’s more than just a steamy summer. Drastic weather events, like wildfires, flooding, and droughts, are sweeping the globe at levels that can only be explained by climate change.

NOAA/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/CIRA via YouTube

While it takes time to analyze the cause of these events, experts are reasonably convinced that the wacky weather we’re witnessing is largely due to human activity.

Here are 7 visuals that document our summer of climate change:

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7. Wildfires in the West

As fire tears through hot, parched areas of the western U.S. and Canada, NASA satellites capture plumes of smoke moving across the region.

NOAA/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/CIRA
The Bootleg fire in Oregon has burned the most acres so far. It can be seen from tens of thousands of feet above the ground.NOAA/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center/CIRA

6. Canada sizzles

Extreme heat has spurred 129 forest fires to burn in Manitoba. Residents are evacuating, and smoke from the fires is drifting to the upper Midwest and neighboring Canadian provinces.

NASA Earth Observatory
Officials in the northern Minnesota city of Duluth issued an air quality alert for the region on July 9.NASA Earth Observatory

5. Hazy NYC

If the air seems smoggy, it’s not just your eyes. Smoke from the west and northern wildfires blanketed the city in a haze and caused poor air quality along the East Coast.

Silvina Beloli / EyeEm/EyeEm/Getty Images
This visual from the National Weather Service shows the sun rising on a thick blanket of smog in several states.National Weather Service NYC via Twitter

4. California’s dried-up lakes

Drought in California is a routine part of the summer — but climate change has supercharged it. Lake Oroville, the second-largest reservoir in the state, was at 35 percent capacity in June.

Here’s a comparison of Lake Oroville in June 2019 versus summer 2021.NASA Earth Observatory

3. Sierra’s melting snowcaps

The Sierra Nevada mountain range is now home to abnormal snowmelt. Faster melts mean less water in reservoirs to carry desert-dwellers through the hottest months of the year.

NASA Earth Observatory
This comparison shows the snow levels from March to July, with the mountains nearly fully dry by early summer.NASA Earth Observatory

2. Europe’s deadly floods

Devastating floods struck Belgium, the Netherlands, and Germany in July. NASA’s Earth Observatory documented the Roer River in the Netherlands before and after water levels rose.

NASA Earth Observatory
While researchers are in the processing of determining the relationship between the floods and the climate crisis, higher rainfall and flash floods often correlate with warming temperatures.NASA Earth Observatory

1. Heat and flames in the PNW

The historic heatwave that struck the Pacific Northwest in June caused wildfires that were visible from satellite.

NASA Earth Observatory
And here’s a heat map that shows the formation of a gnarly heat hole forming over the region. NASA/JPL-Caltech

Read more stories about the climate crisis here.

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