30 of the best environmental photos of 2019 reveal the wonder and anguish of our planet

These photos show how we saw the natural world in 2019.

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These photos show how we saw the natural world in 2019.
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Terray Sylvester/Reuters

Some of these photos showcase familiar natural phenomena like falling snow.

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A woman tries to catch snowflakes with her tongue during a snowfall on Chandragiri Hills in Kathmandu, Nepal.
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Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters

Hoarfrost, shown here, occurs when cold air is extra moist and foggy. That leads frost patterns to become larger and more intricate. The Weather Channel calls it “frost on steroids.”

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Hoarfrost-covered trees are seen on a mountain outside Almaty, Kazakhstan.
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Pavel Mikheyev/Reuters

Sources: The Weather Channel, Reuters


This year, the “Dubak” challenge, which involves tossing boiling water into the air and watching it freeze, went viral in Russia. The trick caught on as temperatures in parts of eastern Russia dropped lower than normal in February, reaching negative 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Winter outdoor sports enthusiast Olesya Ushakova throws hot water into subzero air during sunset outside the Siberian city of Krasnoyarsk, Russia.
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Ilya Naymushin/Reuters

Source: Reuters


This year, research on superbolts showed the bolts can be 1,000 times more energetic than regular lightning (shown below). Superbolts usually occur in the northern hemisphere over water, but scientists aren’t sure what causes them.

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A lightning bolt strikes the sea near Fort St Elmo during a storm in Valletta, Malta.
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Darrin Zammit Lupi/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


People in some parts of the world saw a lunar eclipse in January. It was referred to as a “super blood wolf moon” because the full moon fell in the month of January and the moon was particularly close in its orbit around Earth.

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The moon is seen beside a quadriga on the top of the Cinquantenaire arch during a total lunar eclipse in Brussels.
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Yves Herman/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


The Northern Lights are magical. They appear at high altitudes when charged solar wind particles hit the earth’s atmosphere.

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The Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights) is seen in the sky in Ivalo, Lapland, Finland.
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Alexander Kuznetsov/Reuters

Source: Reuters


Rain in southern California last winter created the perfect conditions for “super blooms,” which were so bold they could be seen from space.

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A woman sits in a super bloom of poppies in Lake Elsinore, California.
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Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Sources: Business Insider


Some of the best environmental photos show what it’s like to deal with the effects of climate change. July was the hottest month ever recorded on Earth.

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A Palestinian man washes his horse in the waters of the Mediterranean Sea as people swim on a hot day in the northern Gaza Strip.
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Mohammed Salem/Reuters

Source: Associated Press


According to an analysis by scientists with the group World Weather Attribution, climate change made the summer heatwave at least five times more likely.

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A woman relaxes on the beach as temperatures reached 38 degrees Celsius in Deauville, France.
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Kevin Coombs/Reuters

Source: Business Insider, World Weather Attribution


Greece’s “gulf of plastic corals” was another reminder of the damaging effects of human activity. Divers coined the term for the area near Andros island after they pulled thousands of plastic bags from the sea there.

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Plastic waste at the bottom of the sea off the island of Andros, Greece.
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Stelios Misinas/Reuters

Source: Business Insider, Reuters


A crab fisherman in Brazil told Reuters that his daily catch is half of what it was 10 years ago because the waterline is about 10 feet further inland due to melting in the Arctic.

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Fisherman Jose da Cruz catches crabs inside mangrove forests on the Caratingui river, in Cairu, Bahia state, Brazil.
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Nacho Doce/Reuters

Source: Reuters


In February, the UK saw its warmest winter day on record. This fire started in West Yorkshire the following day and spread rapidly because of the warm, dry conditions. Witnesses described the scene as “apocalyptic,” according to the Guardian.

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A fire burns on Saddleworth Moor near the town of Diggle, Britain.
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Jon Super/Reuters

Source: The Guardian, Reuters


This year, researchers recorded more than 195,000 fires in Brazil.

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A tract of Amazon jungle burns as it is cleared by farmers in Rio Pardo, Rondonia, Brazil.
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Ricardo Moraes/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Many of the fires in the Brazilian Amazon were started by farmers and loggers seeking to use the land for industrial or agricultural purposes.

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An aerial view of logs illegally cut from Amazon rainforest in sawmills near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil.
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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Land-clearing fires are set each year in the Brazilian Amazon, but warmer temperatures and drier conditions linked to climate change make it easier for blazes to get out of control.

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The carcass of a cow lies along a tract of the Amazon jungle as it is cleared by loggers and farmers in Porto Velho, Brazil.
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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


In July, the Amazon shrunk by 519 square miles — a new monthly record for deforestation there.

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Indigenous people from the Mura tribe show a deforested area in unmarked indigenous lands in the Amazon rainforest near Humaita, Amazonas State, Brazil.
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Ueslei Marcelino/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Recently, prominent scientists warned that because of deforestation, the Amazon is “teetering on the edge” of an irreversible threshold that could turn it into a savanna.

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A view of a deforested area at the National Forest Bom Futuro in Rio Pardo, Rondonia state, Brazil.
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Bruno Kelly/Reuters

Source: Business Insider


Fires also ravaged an ecological conservation area in Bolivia over the summer. This armadillo was blinded by the heat from a wildfire, veterinarian Jerjes Suarez told Reuters.

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A blinded armadillo walks in Guarani Nation Ecological Conservation Area Nembi Guasu in Bolivia.
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David Mercado/Reuters

Source: Reuters


In Greenland, meanwhile, melting ice makes hunting sea animals more challenging.

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Seal hunter Henrik Josvasson jumps back onto his boat after searching for puffin eggs near the town of Tasiilaq, Greenland.
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Lucas Jackson/Reuters

Source: Insider


In Switzerland, melting glaciers are leading the land around ski resorts to become unstable and prone to avalanches.

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Workers shovel snow out of a restaurant after an avalanche at Santis-Schwaegalp mountain resort in Switzerland.
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Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Sources: Reuters, Business Insider


To reduce melting, this Swiss glacier was covered with a tarp to insulate the ice and reflects back sunlight. Glaciologist David Volken told Metro UK that using this covering slows down summer melting by 50% to 70%.

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Parts of the Gurschengletscher glacier are covered with tarps near the peak of Mount Gemsstock in Andermatt, Switzerland.
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Arnd Wiegmann/Reuters

Source: Metro UK


South Korea’s air quality is the worst of any country in the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD). The issue was designated a disaster this year, enabling the government to use emergency funds.

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A woman looks at a view of Seoul shrouded by fine dust during a polluted day in Seoul.
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Kim Hong-Ji/Reuters

Source: Reuters


After a years-long drought, Chennai — the sixth-largest city in India — all but ran out of water in 2019. More than 6 million people live in the area, and Chennai’s water authority cut the entire city’s piped water supply by 40% from June to November.

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A shepherd takes rest under a tree on a dried-up lake on the outskirts of Chennai, India.
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P. Ravikumar/Reuters

Sources: Business Insider, The Hindu


The city’s water shortage is officially over, but the Hindu reported in November that 3,100 streets in Chennai still didn’t have water.

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A woman carries her son in a bucket after collecting water from a municipal water tanker on the outskirts of Chennai, India.
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P. Ravikumar/Reuters

Source: The Hindu


India’s sacred Yamuna river, meanwhile, is so polluted that it’s been deemed “dead.” That’s not snow in this photo — it’s toxic foam. The river is the main source of water for 19 million people in New Delhi.

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Hindu women worship the sun god in the polluted waters of the river Yamuna during the Hindu religious festival of Chhath Puja in New Delhi.
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Adnan Abidi/Reuters

Source: CBS News


Other parts of the world are getting too much water. Record-breaking rain hit areas of Spain in July, and the resulting flooding killed at least six people.

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Cars lie on a riverbank after heavy rainfall in Tafalla, Spain.
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Susana Vera/Reuters

Sources: Reuters, The Guardian


Record-breaking high tides flooded Venice three times in one week in November. Sea levels around the city are rising because of climate change.

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A woman sits by the door of her shop during a period of seasonal high water in Venice.
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Manuel Silvestri/Reuters

Sources: Washington Post, Reuters


Elsewhere in Italy, the Stromboli volcano erupted twice in two months.

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Lava spurts from the Stromboli volcano after an eruption unleashed a plume of smoke on the island of Stromboli, Italy.
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Antonio Parrinello/Reuters

Source: Yahoo News


After residents of Kapoho, Hawaii, fled their homes due to the Kilauea volcano eruption in 2018, many returned this year to the sites where their houses stood.

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Diane Cohen, 64, returns to plant a coconut tree on her property in Kapoho, Hawaii.
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Terray Sylvester/Reuters

Source: Reuters


The 1986 accident at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant in Ukraine reentered the spotlight this year following the release of HBO’s “Chernobyl” miniseries. Some travel companies saw a 40% increase in Chernobyl tourism over the summer, according to Reuters.

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Visitors take pictures of a fox in the abandoned city of Pripyat, near the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, Ukraine.
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Valentyn Ogirenko/Reuters

Sources: Reuters