By Justin Worland
November 17, 2017

A new 20-year NASA timelapse taken from space shows in just a few minutes how life on Earth shapes the planet year by year.

The timelapse follows two decades of constant image collection from a NASA satellite capturing both seasonal patterns that occur every year and longer term changes. “That’s the Earth,” said Gene Carl Feldman, a NASA oceanographer, in a press release. “That is it breathing every single day, changing with the seasons, responding to the Sun, to the changing winds, ocean currents and temperatures.”

The receding level of ice in the Arctic is among the trends captured in the NASA visual. Researchers have long raised alarm at the fast disappearing ice in that region as result of man-made climate change with Arctic sea ice hitting a winter low this year and losing ground as the planet continues to warm.

NASA has also shown the growth of “biological deserts” — uninhabitable regions — that have expanded their footprint in the last two decades. Green shrubs have also expanded their reach in areas once too cold for life.

The data collection serves a practical purpose beyond creating a compelling image. Scientists can use the satellite imagery to help predict where crops will both thrive and suffer and inform farmers how to respond.

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