Stunning images from space show how wars, fires, and floods changed our world over the last decade

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesParadise, California, before and after the deadly Camp Fire.

The world looks considerably different today than it did 10 years ago.

Over the past decade, around 7 million acres of land has been destroyed annually by wildfires. A spate of devastating hurricanes in 2017 toppled buildings and flooded roads in many coastal areas. And the war against ISIS flattened entire cities in the Middle East.

At the same time, new tech campuses and military bases have sprouted up across the Earth’s surface.

These transformations were captured by satellite imagery from Maxar Technologies, which monitored the view from space between 2010 and 2019. Their striking before-and-after photos depict the most significant global events of the past decade.

Take a look.


The Deepwater Horizon oil spill discharged around 4.9 million barrels of petroleum into the Gulf of Mexico in 2010.

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe BP oil spill on April 26, 2010.

On the evening of April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico, killing 11 workers onboard. The rig was stationed in the Macondo Prospect, a site owned by the multinational oil and gas company BP.

The oil spill lasted for 87 days. Satellite images show that it spread across 68,000 square miles of ocean.


In 2012, BP pleaded guilty to 14 criminal charges.

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico on June 10, 2010.

That included 11 counts of felony manslaughter.


The Tōhoku earthquake and tsunami on March 11, 2011, resulted in three nuclear meltdowns and multiple hydrogen explosions at the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant in Japan.

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe Fukushima power plant moments before the explosion on March 14, 2011.

In all of history, only two events have been designated “level 7” nuclear accidents, the classification used by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) for major events with widespread health and environmental effects. Fukushima was one of them.


The disaster is considered the second-worst nuclear accident in history, behind the 1986 Chernobyl disaster.

Waste containers at fukushima daiichi on October 8, 2019An explosion at the Fukushima power plant on March 14, 2011.

The event didn’t directly kill anyone, but it did result in about 1,600 stress-related deaths (mostly elderly citizens). It also released radioactive material into the Pacific Ocean.


Most of the region’s more than 200,000 evacuees have been allowed back.

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesWaste containers at Fukushima on October 8, 2019.

But many have chosen not to return.


China began constructing its most advanced air base, Fiery Cross Reef, in 2014.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe Fiery Cross coral reef before (January 15, 2013), during (November 23, 2014), and after China’s effort to turn it into an artificial island (March 9, 2017).

In China’s aggressive push to dominate the land, sea, and air in its southern regions, the nation embarked on a grand project to turn Fiery Cross Reef into a 677-acre island in 2014.

Though the land claim is fiercely disputed by the international community, the Chinese Foreign Ministry said it’s “within the scope of China’s sovereignty.” Officials have also said that China’s reclamation activity at Fiery Cross and other reefs is “is fair, reasonable, lawful, it does not affect and is not targeted against any country.”

But the artificial island – despite hosting an aeroplane runway, harbour, basketball courts, and even a farm – is also home to a military garrison equipped with rocket launchers. US and other non-Chinese officials have said the militarised artificial islands can escalate tensions in the South China Sea and lead to unnecessary armed conflicts in the future.


Apple opened its new $US5 billion headquarters in Cupertino, California, in April 2017.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesApple’s campus in Cupertino, California, transforms from a patch of purchased buildings (August 30, 2012) into a spaceship-like campus (September 2, 2019).

In 2006, Steve Jobs was envisioning a bright future for Apple – the first iPhone was about to debut, and plans were in the works for an “Apple Campus 2.”

Though Jobs never lived to see the site’s construction, he presented its design to the Cupertino city council in June 2011. The council approved the construction in 2013, and by mid-2014 the project was fully underway.

The final building, sometimes called “The Spaceship,” opened to employees in 2017. It’s more than a quarter-mile long, larger in footprint than the Pentagon in Washington, DC. The structure floats on hundreds of steel saucers to insulate it from earthquakes.

But only a nearby visitor centre is open to the public.

“The problem with opening up the main facility for tours is we have so much confidential stuff around,” Apple’s CEO Tim Cook told company shareholders in 2018.


Hurricane Harvey caused catastrophic flooding in Texas in 2017.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesHoliday Lakes, Texas, before Hurricane Harvey on April 3, 2017, and after the storm on August 30 2017.

Harvey hit Texas and Louisiana as a Category 4 storm in August 2017. Before that, no major hurricane had made landfall in the US in 12 years.


By the time the hurricane dissipated on September 2, 2017, it had claimed 68 lives.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesSimonton, Texas, before Hurricane Harvey on November 20, 2016, and after the storm on August 30, 2017.

Most of these deaths were caused by flooding. Another 35 people perished from the indirect effects of the storm, such as car crashes and issues getting medical help.


Days later, Hurricane Irma ravaged the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesAnse Marcel Beach in Saint Martin before Hurricane Irma on August 25, 2016, and after the storm on September 11, 2017.

By the time the storm made landfall in the Florida Keys on September 10, 2017, Irma was the most intense hurricane to strike the continental United States since Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The storm generated more wind energy than the entire 2013 or 2015 hurricane seasons. In total, it caused at least 134 deaths and $US78 billion worth of damage.


Two weeks after Irma, Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands were torn apart by Hurricane Maria.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesBuildings in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, on May 12, 2017, and after Hurricane Maria on September 24, 2017.

Hurricane Maria was the 10th most intense Atlantic hurricane on record. It knocked out around 80% of Puerto Rico’s electrical grid, prompting an 11-month operation to restore power.

A year after the hurricane struck, Puerto Rico revised the official death toll to 3,059, making Maria the deadliest storm of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.


In southeast Asia meanwhile, the army of Myanmar (a Buddhist-majority country) violently attacked and killed thousands of Muslim Rohingyas starting in 2017.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe village of Inn Din, which had a large Rohingya population, before Burmese forces pushed families out. The images span from May 15, 2017, through April 19, 2019.

Some world leaders have called Myanmar’s actions genocidal, given the expansive yet targeted assault on the Rohingya ethnic minority. Village by village, members of the Burmese military allegedly attacked, raped, and killedRohingya people.

In villages like Inn Din, from which Rohingya families fled to neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, locals razed scores of empty homes and built new structures.


A joint offensive to wrest Mosul from ISIS control destroyed most of the Old City in 2017.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe city of Mosul in Iraq on November 13, 2015, and on July 8, 2017 — after ISIS (or ISIL) lost control following a siege that lasted months.

The city was one of the last Iraqi strongholds of the terrorist militant group, which seized the region in June 2014. Starting in late 2016, a diverse coalition made of Iraqi, Kurdish, and international forces began what would become a roughly nine-month offensive to retake Mosul.

Though the assault was successful, missiles and bombs leveled large patches of the city and fighting killed scores of civilians.


The most destructive wildfire in California history, the Camp Fire, blazed through the town of Paradise in November 2018.

Play GIFSatellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe city of Paradise before the Camp Fire on September 10, 2018, during the blaze on November 9, 2018, and half a year after it on June 12, 2019.

The fire forced more than 250,000 people to evacuate their homes in northern California. It destroyed more than 18,800 structures and 240 square miles of land – including the town of Paradise, which was almost completely incinerated.

The final death count was 85, making it the sixth-deadliest fire in US history.

A faulty power line from California’s largest utility, Pacific Gas & Electric, ignited the blaze.


A United States military raid prompted ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi to commit suicide in October 2019.

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe Al Baghdadi residence before the raid on September 28, 2019.

During his last years of life, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi rose to prominence as the leader of ISIS. He enslaved thousands of people and took over an area the size of Great Britain. But in February 2018, intelligence officials got a break that led to the discovery of his compound in Syria.

A force of US Army Rangers and Delta Force operators attacked the compound on October 27, 2019.


Bombs and missiles destroyed some buildings, but al Baghdadi retreated to an underground tunnel. Inside, he detonated an explosive vest.

Satellite image ©2019 Maxar TechnologiesThe Al Baghdadi residence after the raid on November 12, 2019.

He killed himself and two of his children.

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