As Arctic summers warm, Earth’s northern landscapes are changing. Using Landsat satellite data to track global tundra ecosystems over decades, a new study found the region has become greener, as warmer air and soil temperatures lead to increased plant growth.

Landsat data can be used to determine how much actively growing vegetation is on the ground – greening can represent plants growing more, becoming denser, and/or shrubs encroaching on typical tundra grasses and moss. Between 1985 and 2016, about 38% of the tundra sites across Alaska, Canada, and western Eurasia showed greening. Only 3% showed the opposite browning effect, which would mean fewer actively growing plants.

The Landsat Program is a series of Earth-observing satellite missions jointly managed by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Landsat satellites have been consistently gathering data about our planet since 1972. They continue to improve and expand this unparalleled record of Earth’s changing landscapes for the benefit of all.

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Music: “The Rework,” by Josslin Bordat [SACEM], published by Koka Media [SACEM], available from Universal Production Music

Video credit: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center