NASA satellite data shows how much the Congo rainforest has declined

It will be a profound irony if NASA’s lasting value will be to document from space the planet’s decline. Case in point: the agency released today a scientific visualization video showing the transition of the entire African rainforest in the Congo from green to a drought-stricken brown. The visualization is based on data from NASA satellites, and the related study is published today in the scientific journal Nature. The rainforest is the second largest in the world, after the Amazon.

A new analysis of NASA satellite data shows Africa’s Congo rainforest, the second-largest tropical rainforest in the world, has undergone a large-scale decline in greenness over the past decade. The study, led by Liming Zhou of University at Albany, State University of New York, shows between 2000 and 2012 the decline affected an increasing amount of forest area and intensified. The research, published Wednesday in Nature, is one of the most comprehensive observational studies to explore the effects of long-term drought on the Congo rainforest using several independent satellite sensors. “It’s important to understand these changes because most climate models predict tropical forests may be under stress due to increasing severe water shortages in a warmer and drier 21st century climate,” Zhou said.

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