40 years of photos show our changing planet

The surface of the Earth is always changing -- and the Landsat series of Earth-observing satellites has been watching the planet change since 1972. These satellite images show some of the remarkable transformation over the past 40 years. See more at the EarthShots site.

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    Las_Vegas_9_13_1972

    Sept. 13, 1972 -- Las Vegas, Nevada
    These images show the rapid growth of Las Vegas, Nevada.
    USGS
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    Las_Vegas_9_10_1986

    Sept. 10, 1986 -- Las Vegas, Nevada
    The tip of Lake Mead is visible east of the city (dark area), where Hoover Dam impounds the Colorado River.
    USGS
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    Las_Vegas_9_10_1992

    Sept. 10, 1992 -- Las Vegas, Nevada
    Las Vegas is one of the fastest growing cities in the United States.
    USGS
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    Las_Vegas_9_24_2000

    Sept. 24, 2000 -- Las Vegas, Nevada
    Las Vegas grew from a population of 1,375,765 in 2000 to 1,951,269 in 2010, a 41.8 percent increase -- the third highest in the country for that decade.
    USGS
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    Las_Vegas_9_15_2011

    Sept. 15, 2011 -- Las Vegas, Nevada
    USGS
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    Brazil_7_19_1975

    June 19, 1975 -- Ariquemes, Brazil
    The conversion of tropical rain forests to pasture and cropland is having dramatic effects on the environment. Particularly intense and rapid deforestation is taking place in the state of Rondonia, Brazil, part of which is shown in this series of Landsat images.
    USGS
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    Brazil_7_16_1986

    July 16, 1986 -- Ariquemes, Brazil
    Systematic cutting of forest vegetation starts along roads and then fans out to create the "feather" or "fishbone" pattern, which begins to show in the eastern half of this image.
    USGS
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    Brazil_6_22_1992

    June 22, 1992 -- Ariquemes, Brazil
    The deforested land and urban areas appear lavender; healthy vegetation appears green.
    USGS
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    Brazil_8_10_2001

    Aug. 10, 2001 -- Ariquemes, Brazil
    About 30 percent (3,562,800 square kilometers) of the world's tropical forests are in Brazil. The estimated average deforestation rate from 1978 to 1988 was 15,000 square kilometers per year.
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    Brazil_8_6_2011

    Aug. 6, 2011 -- Ariquemes, Brazil
    In Rondonia, 67,764 square kilometers of rain forest had been cleared through 2003 -- an area larger than West Virginia.
    USGS
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    Saudi_Arabia_9_24_1972

    Sept. 24, 1972 -- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    The growth of Riyadh, the national capital, is dramatic between 1972 and 2011.
    USGS
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    Saudia_Arabia_8_31_1990

    Aug. 31, 1990 -- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    Its population grew in these years from about a half million to over 5 million. Saudi Arabia experienced urbanization later than many other countries; in the early 1970s, its urban-rural ratio was still about 1:3. By 1990, that had reversed to about 3:1.
    USGS
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    Saudia_Arabia_2_8_2003_Riyadh

    Oct 12, 2011, 2003 -- Riyadh, Saudi Arabia
    The dark red squiggly line that winds through the western part of Riyadh is called the Wadi Hanifa, or the Hanifa Valley.
    USGS
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    Aral_Sea_1977

    Sept. 23, 1977 -- Southern Aral Sea
    Before the 1960s, fishing in Central Asia's Aral Sea was an important resource for surrounding communities. When the rivers flowing into the Aral Sea were diverted to irrigate cotton and other crops, many more consequences than the loss of fishing resulted.
    USGS
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    Aral_Sea_1998

    Sept. 18, 1998 -- Southern Aral Sea
    Beginning in the 1960s, the Soviet Union began to divert water from the two major rivers in Central Asia -- Amu Darya and Syr Darya -- that flow into the Aral Sea to irrigate millions of acres of cotton and rice farms. Consequently, the volume of the Aral Sea has reduced from more than 700 cubic kilometers in 1960 to 75 cubic kilometers in 2007.
    USGS
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    Aral_Sea_2010

    July 24, 2010 -- Southern Aral Sea
    As the water levels dropped, the water salinity increased. One liter of Aral water once had 14 grams of salt, but in 2007, the same volume had more than 100 grams -- twice the salinity of the ocean.
    USGS
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