SpaceX astronaut says he saw rainforests burning and dried-up lakes when he looked at the Earth from space

SpaceX astronaut says he saw rainforests burning and dried-up lakes when he looked at the Earth from space
Matthias Maurer in the Cupola in the International Space Station.NASA/ESA–M.Maurer
  • Astronaut Matthias Maurer said he saw burning rainforests and dried-up lakes from space.
  • Dark and light green areas distinguish the rainforests and agricultural activities, Maurer said.

An astronaut who was onboard a SpaceX mission said he saw rainforests burning and dried-up lakes from space as a result of climate change.

Matthias Maurer, a European Space Agency astronaut, said on Thursday during a talk at the World Economic Forum at Davos that people had asked him whether he could see the impact of the climate crisis on Earth from space.

He said that although the climate crisis takes effect over a long period of time, he could see indications that Earth is suffering.

When observing Earth from space, you can see dark green areas, which are rainforests, and light green areas, which are agricultural areas, Maurer said.

"Somehow there are very, very many fires exactly on the border between the dark green and the light green," he said. "That's when you understand people are burning down the rainforests to create more room for agriculture."


"Then you fly further on and you see like desert areas, and you think shouldn't there be a lake here? In my maps, there's a lake," he said. "And it's gone. You don't see anything."

Rising temperatures across the world have triggered heatwaves, droughts, heavy rainfall, and wildfires, according to research. Astronauts understand that the climate crisis is happening, but satellite data can provide far more insights on the matter, Maurer said.

Other astronauts have spoken out about how they've seen the damage that the climate crisis has done to Earth. NASA astronaut Megan McArthur previously told Insider's Morgan McFall-Johnsen she was "saddened to see fires over huge sections of the Earth, not just the United States."

Maurer was part of SpaceX's Crew-3 mission, which shuttled four astronauts to the International Space Station (ISS) on behalf of NASA in November 2021. They remained on the ISS for six months, conducting scientific experiments, before returning back to Earth in May 2022.