Mapping the History of Water by The EU Joint Research Center

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Leading scientific sites announced the creation of The Atlas of Global Surface Water Dynamics by the European Commission’s Joint Research Center (JRC).

The Atlas brings together 35 years of satellite data that illustrates the changes to the Earth’s water surface – lakes, wetlands, and rivers, showing the consequences of climate change and human activities on our water resources.

The project started in 2013 with a small team of JRC scientists to map the history of surface water presence on Earth.

“Working in ​collaboration ​with Google ​Earth Engine, ​the JRC team ​processed some ​4 million satellite images from the ​U.S. Geological ​Survey (USGS), ​the National ​Aeronautics and ​Space ​Administration (​NASA), and the ​EU’s ​Copernicus ​program. ​

In 2016, the ​JRC and Google ​Earth Engine ​made public the ​product of the ​partnership, ​the Global ​Surface Water ​Explorer (GSWE).​

The Global ​Surface Water ​Explorer is an ​interactive ​online platform ​that maps the ​location, ​distribution ​, and changes in ​the world’s ​surface waters ​over the past ​decades. The ​platform is ​updated ​annually. ​

In 2019, the ​GSWE was ​adopted as a ​basis for the ​UN Environment’​s assessment of ​the Agenda 2030 ​Sustainable ​Development ​Goal’s ​target 6.6.1 ​concerning ​freshwater ​ecosystems. ​

Based on the ​online platform,​ the Atlas of ​Global Surface ​Water Dynamics ​presents the ​wealth of ​knowledge ​gathered by the ​scientific team ​in an easily ​accessible ​format that is ​readable to ​everyone. ​

Through a ​series of maps,​ case studies, and ​beautiful ​images, this ​Atlas brings ​the reader on a ​journey through ​some of the ​world’s ​most fascinating ​examples of ​surface water changes, ​which highlight ​the beauty and ​fragility of ​the environment​ and the need ​to preserve ​this precious ​resource.”

The importance of water in our daily lives cannot be overstated, and surface water bodies is a critical source of water for agriculture, industrial, and domestic use. Because water is dynamic, waterbodies move, and changes over time it is always difficult to map it accurately.

By documenting the 35 years’ worth of changes in surface water resources, it will improve our understanding of the effects of climate change and our human actions and will help in decision making, environmental actions, and policies aimed at sustainable management of surface water resources, the article says.

Click the link below to start exploring the water surfaces map:

Source Citation:

First-of-its kind surface water Atlas brings together 35 years of satellite data. (2020). The Water Network. Retrieved from

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