PHOTO COURTESY OF PINTEREST.COM
There has been no shortage of big news over the last decade. Spanning the globe, some stories were expected while others caught the world off guard. Some were so massive they were visible from space, captured through state-ofthe-art imaging satellites belonging to technology company and imagery provider Maxar Technologies. Together, The Associated Press and Maxar assembled a selection of the most striking images.
2017 was the year America’s hurricane luck ran out.
For much of the decade that began in 2010, hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more flirted with Florida and other parts the United States, but never made landfall. In fact, not one major hurricane hit the U.S. between 2006 and 2016. Colorado State University hurricane scientist Phil Klotzbach called it “an amazing streak of luck.”
Then came 2017. Three powerful hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria slammed into different parts of the country, causing $265 billion dam age in four weeks.
“We set an alarming number of hurricane records in 2017,” MIT hurricane scientist Kerry Emanuel said.
Harvey parked itself over Houston and unleashed a downpour. It killed 68 people and set a U.S. record for amount of rain recorded from a storm: 60.58 inches. Harvey’s $120 billion in damages ranks as the second-costliest U.S. storm behind only Katrina in 2005.
Hurricane Irma came next and stayed at maximum Category 5 strength for the longest time ever recorded. Irma was the second-strongest storm recorded in the Atlantic, and it devastated the Caribbean and plowed into Florida. Irma’s $50 billion in damages ranks ﬁfth.
The most devastating came last: Hurricane Maria leveled parts of Puerto Rico. Experts still can’t agree on how many people died, with some estimates in the thousands. Maria was America’s thirdcostliest storm at $90 billion.
BP OIL SPILL
America’s biggest offshore oil spill began with an explosion that killed 11 people. It happened April 20, 2010, on the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, which was extracting oil for BP. The rig sank two days later on the 40th anniversary of Earth Day. For 87 excruciating days, oil gushed into the Gulf of Mexico as people including oil engineers, a Nobel winning scientist and actor Kevin Costner came up with plans to plug the leak that left a bathtub-like ring of coagulated oil on the seafloor.
A team of scientists calculated that 172 million gallons spilled into the Gulf.
BP said the number was closer to 100 million gallons, and a federal judge ruled that 134 million gallons had spilled. The case languished in court until April 2016, when a federal judge approved a $20 billion settlement, ruling that BP had been “grossly negligent.”
By then, the surface of the Gulf of Mexico had no visible scars. Beaches and marshes looked oil-free and back to normal.
Warm ocean waters are eating away at ice, but what’s driving that process remains unclear. PHOTO COURTESY OF SCIENTIFICAMERICAN.COM
However, scientists noticed an increase in dolphin deaths, which had averaged 63 a year before the spill. After the spill, they hit 335 in 2011 and averaged 200 a year for ﬁve years. Biologists also reported far fewer numbers of endangered Kemp Ripley sea turtles for years after.
Earth’s glaciers have shrunk by about 3,860 billion tons (3,500 billion metric tons) this decade, according to research by Michael Zemp at the World Glacier Monitoring Service. That’s about 924 trillion gallons of melted ice and snow _ enough to cover the United States in water 14 inches (35.6 centimeters) deep.
Glaciers in Greenland, including the Petermann, started the decade losing about 54 billion tons (51 billion metric tons) of ice a year. It slowed to about 37 billion tons (34 billion metric tons) in 2018 before speeding up again in 2019. Glaciers in the Southern Andes lost about 37 billion tons (34 billion metric tons) a year in the early part of the decade, and by 2018 they were losing nearly 47 billion tons (42.5 billion metric tons) a year.
“The last decade has been devastating for Earth’s glaciers and ice sheets, and unlike anything modern humanity has seen before,” ice scientist Twila Moon of the National Snow and Ice Data Center said in an email. “Communities have lost drinking, agriculture and hydropower resources as small glaciers have in some instances completely disappeared. Sea level rise from ice loss across the globe has increased flooding, coastal erosion, and health and safety problems, impacting people’s lives, communities, and economies.”
In August 2017, Myanmar’s military launched a brutal, sweeping crackdown against the country’s Rohingya Muslim minority, burning villages, methodically raping women and girls, and killing thousands, including children. Humanrights groups have described the assault as a calculated campaign of ethnic cleansing and genocide designed to drive the Rohingya from the Buddhistmajority country.
The Woolsey Fire approaches homes on November 9, 2018, in Malibu, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two ﬁres in the region. PHOTO COURTESY OF TRUTHOUT.ORG
The bloodshed forced more than 700,000 Rohingya to flee to neighboring Bangladesh, where traumatized survivors crowded onto a stretch of low, rolling hills that would be transformed into the world’s largest refugee camp.
That is where they have languished for more than two years in cramped, squalid conditions amid a maze of bamboo-andtarp shelters that do little to protect them from monsoon rains and stifling heat. Along with fury and fear, a sense of futility swept through the camps as the survivors’ pleas for justice went unheeded despite an international outcry over Myanmar’s actions.
In November, the Rohingya were given reason to hope: Myanmar was accused of genocide at the United Nations’ highest court. In December, Myanmar leader Aung San Suu Kyi appeared before the International Court of Justice to defend her nation’s army from the allegations, arguing that the Rohingya people’s exodus was the unfortunate result of a battle with insurgents.
The African nation of Gambia brought the case against Myanmar on behalf of the 57-country Organization of Islamic Cooperation.
The Woolsey Fire approaches homes on November 9, 2018, in Malibu, California. About 75,000 homes have been evacuated in Los Angeles and Ventura counties due to two ﬁres in the region.
Looking down from space on Nov. 9, 2018, the outskirts of Paradise, California, glowed like burning coal. Hundreds of homes appeared as tiny embers. Entire neighborhoods blazed like bonﬁres.
The scope of the worst wildﬁre in California history hits home when seen from 300 miles above Earth.
What happened in Paradise has become a cautionary tale about the kind of devastation that is possible when erratic winds carry sparks across a warming planet.
Eighty-ﬁve people died. Some perished in cars on roads so choked by trafﬁc they couldn’t outrun the flames. Roughly 19,000 homes, businesses and other buildings were destroyed.
The state’s largest utility, Paciﬁc Gas & Electric Co., was blamed for the ﬁre _ one of dozens of blazes its equipment has caused in recent years _ and forced into bankruptcy. A grim new reality emerged: widespread preemptive blackouts to stop power lines from sparking new blazes. Lawmakers approved hundreds of millions of dollars for ﬁreﬁghting and aggressive brush clearing to protect communities.
The ﬁre has not led to limits on construction in especially ﬁre-prone rural and mountainous terrain, where homes are more affordable. During a severe state housing shortage, a new Paradise is rising from the ashes.
THE RISE AND FALL OF THE ISLAMIC STATE GROUP
The Islamic State group emerged in 2014 during chaotic conflicts in Syria and Iraq. The militants seized towns and cities, quickly gaining control of one-third of both countries. IS created what no other extremist group had before: a so-called Islamic caliphate, with the Syrian city of Raqqa as its capital. Thousands of foreign ﬁghters converged there, and the militants ruled over the local population with a mix of terror and rewards. They levied taxes and extorted the local population. They smuggled oil and collected ransoms, making IS one of the richest militant groups to ever exist.
The group also plotted and executed attacks in the West. It produced thousands of slick online propaganda videos and recruited supporters around the world.
In response to the threat, a military campaign by a U.S.-led international coalition slowly chipped away at the group’s territory. The militants made their last stand in March 2019 in a tiny Syrian village on the border with Iraq.