NASA Confirms Earth Is Greener Today Than 20 Years Ago

March 1, 2019

The world is a greener place than it was 20 years ago, and China and India can take a majority of the credit.

world is a greener place
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A new study from NASA shows that the two countries with the world's biggest populations are leading the increase in greening on land. The effect stems mainly from ambitious tree planting programs in China and intensive agriculture in both countries.

This new insight was made possible by a 20-year-long data record from a NASA instrument (MODIS) orbiting the Earth on two satellites.

There are now more than two million square miles of extra green leaf area per year, compared to the early 2000s – a 5% increase.

NASA data green planet
Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

"China and India account for one-third of the greening, but contain only 9% of the planet's land area covered in vegetation – a surprising finding, considering the general notion of land degradation in populous countries from overexploitation," said Chi Chen of the Department of Earth and Environment at Boston University, in Massachusetts, and lead author of the study.

"When the greening of the Earth was first observed, we thought it was due to a warmer, wetter climate and fertilization from the added carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, leading to more leaf growth in northern forests, for instance," said Rama Nemani, a research scientist at NASA's Ames Research Center, and a co-author of the study. "Now, with the MODIS data that lets us understand the phenomenon at really small scales, we see that humans are also contributing."

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