Earth in 2021: Some Highlights From Another Year on Our Planet [Video]

In 2021, Earth experienced a diverse range of natural phenomena captured in striking images. The year saw extreme winter weather in the central U.S., causing widespread blackouts due to record-breaking cold temperatures. An enormous iceberg, twice the size of Chicago, calved from an Antarctic ice shelf. Volcanic activity on Iceland’s Reykjanes peninsula and La Palma in the Canary Islands created dramatic landscapes, while record low water levels at Lake Mead and changing river colors highlighted ongoing environmental shifts. Additionally, unprecedented heatwaves hit the Pacific Northwest, and the first images from the Landsat 9 satellite provided new perspectives on Earth.

From extreme weather to volcanic eruptions, these images highlight another year on our planet.

Earth in 2021: Some Highlights From Another Year on Our Planet

Extreme Winter Weather Causes U.S. Blackouts. Texas and other central states set records for cold temperatures during a persistent blast of arctic air.

Breakup at Brunt. Two years after it fractured, an iceberg twice the size of Chicago split from an Antarctic ice shelf.

Fagradalsfjall Erupts in Iceland. The volcanic eruption on the Reykjanes peninsula lit up clouds from below.

Within three months, lava flows covered about 3 square kilometers.

Exceptional Heat Hits Pacific Northwest. In June 2021, all-time temperature records fell in multiple cities in the U.S. and Canada during a “historic and dangerous” heatwave.

River Colors are Changing. In the past 35 years, one third of large rivers in the United States have changed their dominant color, often due to sediments or algae.

The images show color change from 1986 to 2020 along the Rio Grande River in New Mexico.

Cloudscapes Over Sumatra. After crossing the Java Sea, moist air rises as it flows across Indonesia’s mountains. This builds spectacular thunderstorm clouds and anvils.

Lake Mead Drops to a Record Low. The reservoir fell to its lowest level since being filled in the 1930s.

Tidal Vortices in the Sea of Okhotsk. Strong tides create laminar and turbulent flow patterns in waters off far eastern Russia.

Lava Burns a Path Through La Palma. A slow-moving wall of basaltic lava bulldozed its way through communities on one of the Canary Islands.

A Changed Landscape on La Palma. Parts of the island now look more like a moonscape than a tropical paradise.

Falling for Corn. More than one-third of the world’s corn is grown in the United States. In this map, yellow areas depict lands that were planted with corn in 2020.

This image shows a swath of the Midwest region just as the corn harvest was nearing its end in 2021.

First Light from Landsat 9. NASA and USGS launched Landsat 9 in September 2021. The first images were ready in a few weeks.

Autumn Color in Japan. Momijiari, or “red leaf hunting,” can last into early December in the country’s southern regions.

New Ocean Data Flowing In. Ocean Surface data from the Sentinel-6 Michael Freilich mission became available to the public in June 2021.

Late in the year, the new satellite observed a moderate La Niña, visible as an area of lower-than-normal sea level (blue) along and below the equator.

Antarctica Eclipsed. The only total solar eclipse of 2021 was visible from Antarctica, where the Moon blotted out the Sun for nearly two minutes.

Visit NASA Earth Observatory for more daily images of your home planet in 2022.

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