On Earth Day, these images from space portray the planet’s fragility and beauty

India from space on April 16, 2018 from Russia's Elekro-I satelliteElektro-I

Earth Day is celebrating its 50th anniversary today. Each year, on April 22, Earth Day is celebrated as the largest secular observance in the world where climate change, plastic pollution, endangered species are a part of an environmental movement worldwide.

Since the 1970’s, when the movement emerged, it has transformed from an anti-war campaign to a voice focused on global warming and clean energy.


The concerns of global warming and its effects are more pertinent now than ever before. Pictures from space agencies around the world like the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO), Roscosmos State Corporation for Space Activities (Roscosmos), and the China National Space Administration highlight just how fragile the Earth can be.


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The first image of the Earth — ever

The first image of the Earth — ever

While Blue Marble is commonly considered to be the first ever image of the moon taken from space, it was actually a photograph captured by a German V2 rocket captured by the Americans at the end of World War II — taken on October 24, 1946.

The first image of Earth by NASA

The first image of Earth by NASA

NASA’s first photo came about in 1966, and even then, it wasn’t the Blue Marble but a black and white photograph taken by the Lunar Orbiter 1.

The Blue Marble (and the Black Marble)

The Blue Marble (and the Black Marble)

The Blue Marble, taken in 1972 aboard the Apollo 17, has since transformed into a symbol for the changes caused by climate change. As NASA’s imaging capabilities have improved, it has been able to record seasonal temperature variations and trends, changes in snow cover and vegetation using the ‘Blue Marble’ image.

And then there was Earthrise

And then there was Earthrise

Another picture that highlighted the fragility of the Earth was ‘Earthrise’ taken by William Anders abroad the Apollo 8 in 1968. Being able to see the planet from a great distance for the first time, it was reported that most people realised how vulnerable Earth was and the finiteness of its resources.

Kerala’s ‘once-in-a-century’ flood

Kerala’s ‘once-in-a-century’ flood

Over 800,000 people were displaced in June last year when monsoon rains caused mass flooding in the south Indian state of Kerala. Before and after pictures, comparing February 2018 to August 2018, of the flood affected areas show how several rivers had spilled over their banks and wiped out two national highways.

KJ Ramesh, the director of the Indian Meteorological Department, asserted that the floods were caused by climate change as witnessed by significant changes in extreme weather events.

California wild-fires

California wild-fires

The largest wildfire since 1932 broke out in Northern California in August 2018. The Ranch and River fires, known cumulatively as the Mendocino Complex fire, were exacerbated by hot, dry and windy conditions that led to 459,000 acres of land burning down. The land now bears a red burn scar visible in the August image that wasn’t there in July.

This natural calamity was also made worse by climate change, according to scientists, as precipitation has been depleting over the years as the dry season is getting longer simultaneously.

Hurricane wipes away island

Hurricane wipes away island

Hurricane Walaka, the second-strongest tropical cyclone in the Pacific — alongside Hurricane Gilma in 1994 — washed away most of East Island, one of the Northwestern Hawaiin islands, in October last year.

It may not be the biggest island as an 11-acre strip of sand, but it was one of the most significant coral reef systems in the area. It was also the nesting ground for the threatened species of Hawaiin green turtles and endangered monk seals.

It's unclear if the island will reappear, and scientists expect future hurricanes to be stronger and wetter due to climate change.

The heat wave in Europe made it go brown

The heat wave in Europe made it go brown

The heat wave in the summer of 2018 was so intense that it literally changed the color of Europe. Compared to 2017 — Denmark, Sweden, the Netherlands, Germany and Poland — are less green a year later.

A postdoctoral researcher at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Lab, Peter Gibson, analysed that there’s been a warning trend over the past few decades and that extreme heat waves are only going to become more common.

Sea ice is at record lows

Sea ice is at record lows

The ice cover on the Bering Sea is only at 10% of its normal levels this year. This, in turn, affects the entire ecosystem from the phytoplankton to the planet’s overall warming.

And rapid depletion of the sea ice on the Arctic Ocean could signal a dangerous downward trend. NASA’s scientists, Joey Comiso, states, "At the rate we’re observing this decline, it’s very likely that the Arctic’s summer sea ice will completely disappear within this century."

Urban sprawls

Urban sprawls

These pictures of India’s capital city, New Delhi, show urbanisation also eats away at an area’s natural capital.

The rapid rate of urbanisation in the city has been pegged to New Delhi’s rising heat stress, increasing air pollution levels as well as polluting and depreciating its water bodies.
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