Earth Day Observations

GOES-17 image of Earth’s Western Hemisphere acquired on May 20, 2018, using the Advanced Baseline Imager (ABI). Image courtesy of NOAA/NASA.

The 22nd April is the globally celebrated annual Earth Day co-ordinated by the Earth Day Network and celebrated by 192 countries. This is the forty-ninth Earth Day, and this year the theme is ‘To protect threatened and endangered species’.

Scientists currently estimate that the planet is currently losing species at 1,000 to 10,000 times the normal rate, with multiple extinctions occurring each and every day and this is right across the animal kingdom; for example:

  • Big cats are in decline with many predicted to become extinct within ten years.
  • Insect populations have decreased by 75% in Germany within the last thirty years.
  • 302 of the 504 primate species in the world are threatened with extinction, with 75% in severe decline.
  • 40% of the world’s bird species are in decline with 12.5% threatened by global extinction.
  • 40% of all lizard species will be extinct by 2080.

Earth Observation (EO) can be used to help monitor animal populations from space. We’ve previously written blogs looking at monitoring whales and other animals.The aims of the Earth Day campaign are:

  • Educate and raise awareness about the accelerating rate of extinction of millions of species and the causes and consequences of this phenomenon.
  • Achieve major policy victories that protect broad groups of species as well as individual species and their habitats.
  • Build and activate a global movement that embraces nature and its values.
  • Encourage individual actions such as adopting a plant-based diet and stopping pesticide and herbicide use.

NASA used Earth Day to launch its new Space for US website demonstrating how EO data helps communities across the USA deal with climate change and environmental issues. It provides 56 case studies, searchable by topic or State, showing the benefits provided by our industry. Some of the examples listed that caught our eye were:

NASA also encouraged people to post pictures on social media to celebrate Earth Day using  #PictureEarth, and also shared a variety of its favourite pictures of the planet.

In launching their new website, NASA highlighted the free and open access nature of EO data which allows anyone with a computer to use it to undertake environmental analysis. This was particularly relevant this week as April 15th marked the 20th anniversary of Landsat-7 going into space. Over the last two decades, the satellite has made 106 380 orbits of Earth travelling over 4.7 trillion kilometres and acquiring over two and half million images. It has already been joined in space by Landsat-8, and Landsat-9 is planned for a December 2020 launch which means we already know next year is going to be another exciting one for our industry!

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