Pieces of the Global Water Change Puzzle

By Dr. Mark LeChevallier – March 10, 2017 – Comment

Asia’s disappearing ______ Sea, four letters.

If you’re a fan of crossword puzzles, this clue probably looks familiar to you. But there’s more to the answer than meets the eye – and thanks to a collaboration between the European Commission’s Joint Research Centre scientists and Google engineers, we are getting that deeper look at what’s going on with bodies of water such as Asia’s disappearing Aral Sea.

You absolutely must see the mapping – in motion – to truly appreciate how exciting this project is! The name Global Surface Water Explorer also says a great deal about this online resource. I suggest doing the following:

  1. Get started here. This short article includes several captivating animations showing surface water changes in the U.S. and other parts of the world.
  2. Then, start exploring here.

The project utilizes millions of satellite images to map three decades of water global water change, allowing scientists and researchers to more closely see the impact of climate variability and other influences on surface water (inland saltwater and freshwater lakes, rivers and wetlands). By mapping these changes, scientists and researchers can better plan strategies for water use, resource management and conservation.

What is offered to the public is incredibly interactive and captivating – visual and cerebral. It is one of those opportunities where anyone can dive in and get lost exploring bodies of water from country to country. Moreover, not only you will you see what has happened to surface water between 1984 and 2015 in a type of time-lapse animation, you will learn why it’s happening.

The Global Surface Water Explorer is also full of what could be surprises to many people. For instance, did you know that not all lakes and rivers are drying up? On the contrary, while some water sources such as those in the western U.S. are declining due to overuse, lakes in other areas of the world are expanding due to melting glaciers.

I encourage all of you to get out there (on the web, that is) and play! See where the Global Surface Water Explorer takes you – and don’t forget to find out exactly why the Aral Sea is disappearing!