Timelapse: The Shrinking Aral Sea

By Sebastian Kluger [CC BY-SA 3.0 ], from Wikimedia Commons

Today for Throwback Thursday (#TBT) we’re checking out the Aral Sea, which is located in central Asia near Kazakhstan. This was one of the world’s largest saline lakes. In the 1960s that all began to change as rivers that fed the lake were diverted for Soviet irrigation projects to boost cotton production. Since then the lake has shrunk by some 70% or more, thought is has seen a little recovery due to a dam built to raise the level of the lake enough to support native fish once again. However, it may never return to its former glory unless massive changes are made to management of water from sources like the Amu Darya River. Since the 1960s, the Aral Sea has lost 90% of its source-water, which begins as snow in the Himalayas.

Google-powered Timelapse won’t take us all the way back to the 1960s, but it will allow us to see SIGNIFICANT change from 1984 – 2012. Go ahead and zoom in for a closer look.

The sea shrinkage has ruined a once-thriving fishing economy, but it’s also left salt-flats infused with pesticides from years of agricultural runoff. The winds then pick up and blow the toxic dust near and far, plaguing residents with health troubles like cancer.

Want to do some skytruthing of your own?  Head over to google-powered Timelapse and “Explore the World.”

Timelapse: Urban Growth off Doha, Qatar

Here at SkyTruth we wanted to get on the Throw-Back-Thursday (#TBT) bandwagon, and thought what better way than with a global Timelapse!? This Google-powered tool allows us to see composite Landsat images of anywhere on earth from 1984 – 2012. This amazing time-machine helps us better understand growth, change, development or destruction.

Today we’re checking out the urban development around Doha, the capital of Qatar. What you can see in this 28 year span is some HUGE growth happening off the coast and out into the Persian Gulf. By default you’ll see it in “Fast” mode, but go ahead and click that button to slow down to “Medium” speed. You can also zoom in and check out those man-made islands that bloom off the coast.

If you check out the Timelapse homepage you may see similar landmasses appear off of Dubai. We’re beginning to think that plant-shaped islands are the hottest new building craze of the mid-2000’s. THOUGH if you zoom in close on Qatar you’ll see that one of the little “blooms” gets darker than the others right around 2010. It’s the only one so far with any development, but one of the furthest from that golf course that pops up in the desert)! It seems they’re rolling along with infrastructure investments and gearing up for World Cup 2022.

Zoom out and explore the world! The Timelapse project was launched by Google in 2013 as a global, interactive map that uses three decades of Landsat imagery to show our ever-changing world. Check out Time’s “Explore the World” option and do some skytruthing of your own!

FrackFinder PA: Dart Frog Complete; New 2013 Imagery to Map

Thanks to all our great skytruthers who helped us find all the ponds that look like this!

Thanks to all of our FrackFinders– Project Dart Frog is complete!  Many thanks to all of our volunteers for helping us get through this phase of the FrackFinder PA project.  We had over 250 registered users power through 7,835 images to help us figure out if the ponds they saw in aerial imagery were related to fracking or not.  Now if 7,835 images sounds like a lot, consider this. Because we really like accuracy, those images were viewed by 10 different sets of eyes.  That means our 250 frackfinders looked at 78,350 images! If it wasn’t for YOUR help, our small team at SkyTruth headquarters would still be toiling through imagery.

While we work on finalizing the results, we’ve already got a another project ready for you to help us with: FrackFinder PA – Project Tadpole 2013.  Some of our FrackFinding veterans may be thinking, “Wait…didn’t we already go through Project Tadpole?”  We did.  Back in August you all knocked out 90,000 image analysis tasks in only 28 day, but that was only for the years 2005, 2008, and 2010.  Now we have brand new imagery from 2013 and we need your help to identify how fracking has spread across PA in the three years since the last aerial survey. All you need to do is tell us if you see a wellpad at each site we show you…

Ready? Just hit this button, sign up (or sign back in), and off you go!

Just to recap for you, FrackFinder PA is a multi-phase effort to map drilling and hydraulic fracturing across Pennsylvania using crowd-sourced image analysis of satellite and aerial imagery.  Ultimately, these projects will create a comprehensive, public map of drilling and fracking in Pennsylvania.  After Pennsylvania, our goal is to create this map for the entire United States.

You may also be thinking, “I don’t live in Pennsylvania.  I can’t possibly help.”  FrackFinder is not a boots-on-the-ground type mission, you can do this from the comfort of your own home, anywhere in the world. We like to think of skytruthing as a sort of “armchair citizen science” that can have a really powerful contribution to our understanding of issues like fracking.

As you probably know, the results from our FrackFinder projects are informing a Johns Hopkins University study on the public health impacts of drilling and fracking. Thanks to you we’ve already delivered two unique datasets to them that would not have been possible without you.

So check out FrackFinder PA – Project Tadpole 2013 and keep on skytruthing!

It’s Better Together – Host a FrackFinder Event to Help Map Fracking

As you may know, we’ve been working on Project FrackFinder–a multi-phase effort to map drilling and hydraulic fracturing using collaborative image analysis by citizen scientists like you. 

Not sure you want to sort through FrackFinder tasks on your own? Enlist some friends and host a FrackFinder-A-Thon! On February 28th, the Shepherd University Environmental Organization participated in the first ever FrackFinder-A-Thon.  They threw a pizza party and in only 2.5 hours, 15 people powered through 10,000 tasks!  

The following week, a group of University of San Francisco students were visiting Appalachia on a spring break immersion trip.  These Bay area students spent the day with us, FrackFinding and learning about skytruthing mining, drilling and other extractive industries.  Take a listen to this WV Public Radio piece to learn more about their experience.

California Students Learn About Natural Gas, Coal Industries

We need your help to finish the last 14% of tasks for Project Dart Frog. The sooner we do, the sooner Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School can start crunching numbers on their study of public health as it relates to fracking. Over 200 folks have contributed to the FrackFinder project so far, but we still need your help to keep things moving.

Need help in figuring out how to host your own FrackFinder-A-Thon at your school or in your community?  Let us know– kristy@skytruth.org!  We’d love to help you set one up.

Once Project Dart Frog concludes, we’ll embark on a new phase of group image analysis based upon YOUR findings.

FrackFinder PA: Project Dart Frog to ID Fracking Ponds Across PA

Many thanks to our stellar volunteers for helping us power through the Moor Frog phase of our FrackFinder mission.  With the help of dozens of volunteers we were able to power through 4,140 sites and identify 7,835 ponds around active wellpads. Give yourselves some serious high-fives! 
BUT, our work is not done.  Today, we launch into a NEW PHASE of FrackFinder… Project Dart Frog!  So, get your sorting goggles on and recruit some friends and neighbors to help us with the project.
Our latest FrackFinder effort, Project Moor Frog was aimed at locating ponds near active wellpads across Pennsylvania’s Marcellus Shale.  Most phases of FrackFinder build on previous projects, for example, we know where active wellpads based on the results of Project Tadpole Now we need you to help us sort out which of those ponds are related to fracking, and which aren’t.
This is one of the ponds skytruthers just like you helped find in Project Moor Frog. Now we need your help to sort out which of these are fracking ponds (like this one) and which ones are naturally occurring or man-made for other purposes like decoration or watering livestock.
Just to recap for you, FrackFinder PA is a multi-phase effort to map drilling and hydraulic fracturing (fracking) across Pennsylvania using crowd-sourced image analysis of satellite and aerial imagery.  We’re asking volunteers like you to help us look through images of fracking sites and tell us what you see.  Ultimately, these projects will create a comprehensive map of drilling and fracking in Pennsylvania.  After Pennsylvania, our goal is to create this map for the whole United States!
This is a project specifically designed to support work we are doing with our partners at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health.  Experts there are planning to use the FrackFinder data YOU produce to study the relationship between fracking and public health issues, but first they need to know where the fracking is!
Project Dart Frog is a simple sorting project and can easily be done on any computer or tablet with a decent internet connection. Not sure you’ve got the eyes for this job?  Don’t worry!  We provide you with a simple tutorial that will put you on the fast track to pond identification.
Spread the word.  Check it out.  Make a difference.

Image: Geoff Gallice – Couresty of Wikimedia Commons
About Dart Frogs: In keeping with our amphibian themed projects, Project Dart Frog invokes colorful little critters like this Strawberry Dart Frog. We thought since we’re asking you sort out the good ponds from fracking ponds, we’d pick a brightly colored family that’s full of red frogs, blue frogs, green frogs, and bad frogs (as in bad for anyone who wants to make a meal of them since they are toxic in the wild). It’s only appropriate, don’t you think?