A popular image heavily shared in social media circles shows two images of our planet, one dated 1978 and one dated 2012. The 1978 photo shows a much greener United States, while the 2012 image appears to be devoid of vegetation. The caption reads, “The same planet just 34 years after. Kinda sad, right?” Is this photo accurate?
In short, the images are altered, but real. The caption is wrong. Let’s take a look at these images a little closer.
The original image being circulated looks like this:
The “1978″ Image
The image on the left, dated 1978, was actually taken on February 8, 2002. You can find the original image here, and the NASA page discussing it here. So the caption is wrong to state that it was taken in 1978. I have compared the alleged 1978 image (which I’ll now refer to as the 2002 image) with the original NASA photo below. The original NASA photo is on the left and the circulated 2002 photo is on the right. You’ll see that the colors have been altered from the original to be more vibrant, and the subtle greens of the original are much brighter in the altered version.
The “2012″ Image
The photo dated 2012 in the circulated image was taken on January 24, 2012. The original can be found on the NASA website, here. Their desscription of the image is as follows:
A ‘Blue Marble’ image of the Earth taken from the VIIRS instrument aboard NASA’s most recently launched Earth-observing satellite – Suomi NPP. This composite image uses a number of swaths of the Earth’s surface taken on January 4, 2012. The NPP satellite was renamed ‘Suomi NPP’ on January 24, 2012 to honor the late Verner E. Suomi of the University of Wisconsin.
Comparing these two photos side by side shows that there is only slight color variation from the original.
This leads us to the original comparison, of what we now know to be images taken in 2002 and 2012 – only 10 years apart. How can we account for the discrepancy that does exist between the two images?
Take a look at the colors in these photos. The 2002 image has much more vibrant colors, perhaps altered after the fact, or due to other processes. Compare the blue in the oceans in the two images. The oceans in the 2002 image have a nearly purple tint. This alone could account for much of the discrepancy in color.
The 2002 image is clearly a different angle of North America than the 2012 image. The continent is significantly larger in the 2012 image.
It has been argued that the 2012 image has the “deforested” look because it was taken in the middle of winter when trees are likely to be bare, yet the 2002 was only taken a couple of weeks later in the year. It’s unclear whether the winter seasons in 2002 and 2012 were as different as the colors in these images may imply.
In short, the image being circulated does not show a comparison of North America in 1978 and 2012, but two very different images taken only 10 years apart.
It’s a hoax.
Below is a comparison of the two original unaltered images:
Filed under: Hoaxes & Rumors