Earth Snapshot RSS Feed Twitter

Archive for Environmental Disasters

Low Water Levels in Eastern Basin of South Aral Sea – August 14th, 2012

46.7N 61.6E

August 14th, 2012 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day, Lakes

Aral Sea – August 13th, 2012

As the Aral Sea has shrunk, it has separated into three distinct main lakes. Here, the North Aral Sea and the western lake of the southern basin appear to contain significantly more water than the eastern lake.

The ecosystems of the Aral Sea and the river deltas feeding into it have been nearly destroyed, not least because of much higher salinity. The receding sea has left huge plains covered with salt and toxic chemicals – the results of weapons testing, industrial projects, pesticides and fertilizer runoff – which are picked up and carried away by the wind as toxic dust and spread to the surrounding area.

Crops in the region are destroyed by salt being deposited onto the land. Vast salt plains exposed by the shrinking Aral have produced dust storms, making regional winters colder and summers hotter The land around the Aral Sea is heavily polluted, and the people living in the area are suffering from a lack of fresh water and health problems, including high rates of certain forms of cancer and lung diseases.

Desertification and Shrinking Lake Chad

13.3N 14.1E

April 2nd, 2012 Category: Deserts, Environmental Disasters, Lakes

Chad - March 11th, 2012

Fewer than 50 years ago, Lake Chad was bigger in surface area than the country of Israel. Today its surface area is les than a tenth of its earlier size, shrinking 90 percent between 1963 and 2001 from 25,000 square kilometres to under 1,500. Forecasts suggest the lake could disappear altogether within 20 years.

The shrinking of the lake is the result of climate change and overuse, and it is putting at risk the livelihood of the 30 million people who depend on its waters. The lake is bordered by Chad, Niger, Cameroon and Nigeria. Four more countries, the Central African Republic, Algeria, Sudan and Libya, share the lake’s hydrological basin and are therefore also affected by its shrinking.

Villages that used to be thriving lakeside ports are now stranded miles from the water, and have been swallowed by the advancing Sahara desert. Fishers and farmers are struggling to survive. Farmers who rely on lake waters for irrigation are having to move nearer to the water or abandon their activities. Lack of water has caused pasture lands to shrivel up and led to a serious shortage of animal feed, estimated at 46.5 percent in some areas in 2006, resulting in cattle deaths and plummeting livestock production.


Oil Spill from Container Ship Rena Off Coast of New Zealand

37.6S 176.1E

October 17th, 2011 Category: Environmental Disasters

New Zealand - October 15th, 2011

Salvage teams are pumping oil from a stricken container ship off the New Zealand coast before bad weather arrives which could split the vessel in two and spew more oil onto beaches.

The Liberian-flagged Rena has been stuck for 12 days on a reef 14 miles (22km) off Tauranga on the east coast of New Zealand’s North Island, having already spilled about 350 tonnes of toxic fuel and some of its hundreds of containers into the sea.

The image shows the container ship Rena off the coast of North Island. The information present in the image (see full version) regarding the ship is generated automatically by SRRS’ ship-detection post processing module.

The circle indicates the area in which the oil has spread. In the full image, some black stains can be observed near the shoreline. Oil has washed up along about 37 miles of the coast, which is popular with surfers and fishermen. Nearly 1,300 birds have died in the spill, which is seen as New Zealand’s worst environmental disaster in decades.

The Guardian has reported that salvage teams are running out of time in their efforts to pump oil from the stricken Rena container ship before it breaks up or bad weather halts the operation. Today they were adding extra pumps to speed up the recovery of the oil from the 236m (775ft) vessel through holes in the side to a barge. More than 70 tonnes have been recovered, but there are fears that bad weather will halt the operation and possibly send the stern section, which contains more than 1,000 tonnes of oil, tumbling into 60 metres of water.

New Orleans and Southern Louisiana, USA – October 30th, 2010 – Eosnap Celebrates its 3000th Post!

29.1N 89.4W

October 30th, 2010 Category: Environmental Disasters, Image of the day, Rivers, Sediments

USA - October 14th, 2010

New Orleans - October 21st, 2010

Oil by Mississippi River Delta - May 5th, 2010

Eosnap celebrates its 3000th post with an update on the Deepwater Horizon oil spill and a look at New Orleans, the Mississippi River Delta and southern Louisiana, USA.

The main image shows the Mississippi River Valley about two weeks ago, golden tan in color, and the river itself meandering down towards the Gulf of Mexico. Brown and tan sediments pour out of the delta area and into the gulf to the south of New Orleans, visible as a grey area. The city and its surroundings are best observed in the color close-up image.

The black and white radar images, on the other hand, offer a look back at the spread of the oil slick during the first month and a half of the oil spill. These wide-swath ASAR images make it possible to observe a wide area in great detail, and allow the oil to be seen much more clearly than in color images.

Spread of Oil - May 18th, 2010

Oil Slick - May 15th, 2010

A little more than six months after the Deepwater Horizon oil platform caught fire and ultimately sank, signs of that accident continue to appear along the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. Louisiana fishermen found “massive stretches” of oil floating toward marshes in the Mississippi Delta last week, reported Discovery News.

It is hardly the only observation of surface, or near-surface, oil since the Obama administration gleefully declared in August that 75 percent of the Deepwater Horizon spill had been magically cleaned up. Still unresolved is perhaps the most contentious issue of all: Where did all the oil go? Even allowing for the skimming and burning of much of the surface oil, the bulk of what entered the Gulf as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster should still be somewhere beneath the waves.

A team of researchers found evidence of oil in the water column far beneath the surface, approximately 300 miles (500 km) from the site of the accident, by analysing the water for low oxygen levels — a sign that oil-consuming bacteria were in the area. Interestingly, however, the scientists didn’t find quite as strong a low-oxygen signal as they anticipated. This doesn’t mean that the oil isn’t there, but rather that bacteria aren’t consuming as much of it as they might have predicted. It could be that some of those undersea plumes have, as time has passed, become more diffuse and thus harder to detect.

Southern Louisiana - June 3rd, 2010

New Orleans and Delta Area - May 31st, 2010

Destruction of Boreal Forest Near Athabasca Oil Sands, Canada – September 8th, 2010

56.7N 111.3W

September 8th, 2010 Category: Deforestation, Environmental Disasters, Image of the day, Rivers

Canada - August 27th, 2010

Destruction of Boreal Forest © Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace

Destruction of Boreal Forest

Vast Areas of Cleared Forest © Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace

Vast Areas of Cleared Forest

On the right side of this orthorectified image of eastern Alberta, Canada, the Athabasca River can be seen running vertically past the Athabasca Oil Sands, near Fort McMurray.

Oil sands, also known as tar sands, are large deposits of bitumen – extremely heavy, semi-solid crude oil that is mixed with silica sand, clay minerals and water. The largest reservoir of crude bitumen in the world is found here in the Athabasca deposit.

The UK Guardian Newspaper and Greenpeace recently reported that Canada’s boreal forest – a continuous belt of coniferous trees separating the tundra to the north and temperate rainforest and deciduous woodlands to the south – is being flattened and destroyed in order to extract oil from the tar sands.

The striking photographs show how Canada’s magnificent boreal forest is being destroyed by the rush to extract oil from the tar sands just below the surface. The first two photographs show how large areas of forest have been cleared in order to extract the oil.

The third photograph shows the oily surface of the Mildred Lake tailings pond adjacent to the Syncrude upgrader north of Fort McMurray. The final one shows clumps of trees that have become isolated amid the destruction of the landscape around them.

Oily Surface of Mildred Lake © Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace

Oily Surface of Mildred Lake

Isolated Clumps of Trees © Jiri Rezac/Greenpeace

Isolated Clumps of Trees