NASA has investigated humanity’s impact on a number of our home planet’s natural resources and recently explored our impact on freshwater resources. Scientists have now completed the first global accounting of fluctuating water levels in Earth’s lakes and reservoirs – including ones previously too small to measure from space.

The research, published March 3 in the journal Nature, relied on NASA’s Ice, Cloud and land Elevation Satellite 2 (ICESat-2), launched in September 2018.

ICESat-2 sends 10,000 laser light pulses every second down to Earth. When reflected back to the satellite, those pulses deliver high-precision surface height measurements every 28 inches (70 centimeters) along the satellite’s orbit. With these trillions of data points, scientists can distinguish more features of Earth’s surface, like small lakes and ponds, and track them over time.

This image is of Lake Mead, which was formed by the creation of the Hoover Dam and lies on the Colorado River just south of Las Vegas.


Learn more about NASA research on our planet’s most valuable resource.

Image Credit: National Park Service








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