Green Planet

  • Released Tuesday, September 22nd, 2015
  • Updated Wednesday, May 3rd, 2023 at 1:49PM

How green is our planet? The answer to that question actually changes with the seasons and depends on where you’re looking. From space, scientists monitor Earth’s plant life using instruments aboard satellites that measure the health and lushness of vegetation on land. The measurements allow researchers to create maps that show where in the world plants have gone dormant and where they’re in bloom, or whether there’s any vegetation at all. The maps can also indicate how a landscape has evolved over time due to changes in climate and human activity. Since 1999, the MODIS instrument aboard NASA's Terra satellite has measured vegetation changes on Earth from orbit. Watch the video to see more than a decade's worth of observations collected by the spacecraft.

Greenness levels start to fade during fall in the Northern Hemisphere as temperatures cool and the days grow shorter.

Greenness levels start to fade during fall in the Northern Hemisphere as temperatures cool and the days grow shorter.

In winter, vegetation at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere goes dormant. The black areas in the polar region above indicate no data.

In winter, vegetation at high latitudes in the Northern Hemisphere goes dormant. The black areas in the polar region above indicate no data.

Plant life starts to bloom during spring in the Northern Hemisphere as temperatures warm and the days grow longer.

Plant life starts to bloom during spring in the Northern Hemisphere as temperatures warm and the days grow longer.

Greenness levels peak in the Northern Hemisphere during summer, when the highest rates of plant growth are observed.

Greenness levels peak in the Northern Hemisphere during summer, when the highest rates of plant growth are observed.


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Credits

Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center
Video and images courtesy of NASA Earth Observatory