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Fifty years of observing the Earth means Landsat has witnessed many land surface changes. A few of those changes are shocking in their sheer scale and swiftness.

A vast wetland in southern Iraq has been decimated in recent decades by a variety of factors—all documented by the consistent and objective data from Landsat satellites.

Imagery from Landsat’s first few weeks of operation in summer 1972 shows the Mesopotamian Marshes at nearly their maximum extent. Over time, Landsat shows the marshes diminish, dry up, and then partially recover.

The Mesopotamian Marshes are divided into three areas: Al Hammar, Central, and Al Hawizeh.

Aug. 1, 2, 1972, Landsat 1 (path/row 178,179/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq

Imagery

Every picture has a story to tell
Aug. 1, 2, 1972, Landsat 1 (path/row 178,179/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
Apr. 29, May 8, 1986, Landsat 5 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
May 29, June 5, 1988, Landsat 5 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
May 10, 19, 26, 1990, Landsat 5 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
June 14, 23, 1991, Landsat 5 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
June 12, 19, 1993, Landsat 5 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
June 1, 10, 1998, Landsat 5 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
May 13, 22, 2000, Landsat 7 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
Apr. 29, May 6, 2003, Landsat 7 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
June 6, 13, 2014, Landsat 8 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
June 9, 16, 2015, Landsat 8 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
Apr. 24, May 3, 2019, Landsat 8 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
May 8, 15, 2021, Landsat 8 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
May 10, 11, 2022, Landsat 8, 9 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq
May 21, 22, 2023, Landsat 8, 9 (path/row 165,166/38,39) — Mesopotamian Marshes, Iraq

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References

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NASA, 2009, Reclaiming Mesopotamia’s Marshes: NASA Earth Observatory, accessed May 9, 2022, at https://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/images/38409/reclaiming-mesopotamias-marshes.

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Vinez, M., and Leonard, S., 2010, The Iraq Marshlands—the Loss of the Garden of Eden and its People: Illinois State University, accessed May 9, 2022, at https://pol.illinoisstate.edu/downloads/conferences/2011/LeonardIraqMarshes.pdf.

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