A new NASA time lapse shows 20 years of life on Earth

 



20 years ago, NASA started launching satellites that could keep a constant eye on life on Earth. To celebrate the anniversary, the space agency combined data from dozens of Earth-facing satellites to create a time lapse of the entire planet changing in real time. 

These satellites have given scientists a much clearer understanding of how ecological systems shift over time across the planet. Before we had all these eyes in the sky, observations were less frequent and therefore less precise.

SEE MORE: NASA Has A Better Idea How Humans, Weather Shift The Carbon Cycle

Now, scientists can see how Earth "breathes" like a living thing as the years go by. Deserts around the globe expand as ice covers shrink, then decline as snow cover comes back. 

And tracking the Earth in real time has led to all sorts of interesting discoveries, such as subtle changes in the timing of our seasons. Satellites helped NASA discover that springtime is starting earlier than it used to, while autumn is coming much later.

More incredible NASA images:

8 PHOTOS
NASA releases stunning close-up images of giant new iceberg in Antarctica
See Gallery
NASA releases stunning close-up images of giant new iceberg in Antarctica
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
Photographed by NASA, the A-68 iceberg is one of the largest ever observed on Earth.
UNSPECIFIED, ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA, the current mission targets 'sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.' Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases'. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA, the current mission targets 'sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.' Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases'. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
UNSPECIFIED, ANTARCTICA - OCTOBER 31: The western edge of the famed iceberg A-68 (TOP R), calved from the Larsen C ice shelf, is seen from NASA's Operation IceBridge research aircraft, near the coast of the Antarctic Peninsula region, on October 31, 2017, above Antarctica. The massive iceberg was measured at approximately the size of Delaware when it first calved in July. NASA's Operation IceBridge has been studying how polar ice has evolved over the past nine years and is currently flying a set of nine-hour research flights over West Antarctica to monitor ice loss aboard a retrofitted 1966 Lockheed P-3 aircraft. According to NASA, the current mission targets 'sea ice in the Bellingshausen and Weddell seas and glaciers in the Antarctic Peninsula and along the English and Bryan Coasts.' Researchers have used the IceBridge data to observe that the West Antarctic Ice Sheet may be in a state of irreversible decline directly contributing to rising sea levels. The National Climate Assessment, a study produced every 4 years by scientists from 13 federal agencies of the U.S. government, released a stark report November 2 stating that global temperature rise over the past 115 years has been primarily caused by 'human activities, especially emissions of greenhouse gases'. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)
HIDE CAPTION
SHOW CAPTION
of
SEE ALL
BACK TO SLIDE

Read Full Story