The Most Eye-Opening Stories of 2015

Ten environmental visuals from this year that deserve another look.

December 28, 2015

Here at Earthwire we’re always on the lookout for visually compelling stories, and 2015 did not disappoint on that front. From newly discovered species to soaring temperatures and man-made earthquakes, the past 12 months have been packed with eye-opening environmental news good, bad, and ugly. As we reflect on the year, we thought we’d share a compilation of the photos, videos, and infographics that most resonated with you, dear reader. 

1. Air pollution in Asia may be changing weather patterns in the United States

Have emissions ever looked so beautiful? NASAs mesmerizing visualization of aerosols swirling across the globe shows just how interconnected activities on the Blue Planet really are.

Illustrated by AirNow

2. These are all the wildfires burning through America right now

After the record-breaking season the western United States had this year, its no wonder this story spread like...well, you know.

3. Thanks to the BP oil disaster, this Louisiana barrier island is washing away

April 20 marked the five-year anniversary of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. As the country remembered its worst environmental disaster, this National Geographic video reminded us that the aftermath is still very much happening in the present tense.

Photo: Petty Officer Mitch Brown

4. Lake Michigans water is so clear right now that you can see right down to the shipwrecks

Its not every day you can check out a sunken ship sans scuba gear. These ice- and algae-free waters caught the eye of the U.S. Coast Guard Air Station in Traverse City, Michigan, and then they caught yours.

5. This time lapse shows just how much humans are altering the planet

More than 40 years worth of Landsat satellite images put our environmental impacts into real perspective.

6. Eye-popping before and after images of sea-level rise

The possibility of 20 feet of sea-level rise definitely sounds bad, but theres something about seeing landmarks like the National Mall flooded to the gills that really hits it home.

7. Spring is here! Monarchs are coming! Keep an eye on this wind map to find out when.

The butterflys population has declined sharply in recent years, so the prospect of tracking the spectacular annual migration got readers into a flap.

A screenshot of the interactive map Brooke Singer developed for ToxicSites

8. A new interactive map shows the toxic waste sites near you

There sure are a lot of dots on this map...Superfund sites arent always obvious to the public, but fortunately, this tool provides great information on any not-so-great substances in your immediate area.

9. Caught on camera for the first time: plankton eating plastic

The plague of ocean plastics was in the news a lot this year. When this video captured the tiniest members of the food chain falling prey to our trashy habits, it was hard to look away.

10. A new map shows air pollution data from around the world in real time

Our readers were struck by the need for better data after a study published in September found air pollution causes 3.3 million premature deaths each year. 

onEarth provides reporting and analysis about environmental science, policy, and culture. All opinions expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the policies or positions of NRDC. Learn more or follow us on Facebook and Twitter.

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