MNN Galleries

7 ways humans are damaging the planet

By: Katherine Butler on Sept. 5, 2012, 5:56 p.m.
Yellow River Delta

Photo: NASA

2 of 9

Dynamic changes in the Yellow River Delta

China’s Yellow River along the Gulf of Bohai is known to be the most sediment-filled river on Earth. Also called Huang He, the Yellow River flows 5,475 kilometers (3,395 miles) from eastern Tibet to the Bohai Sea. During this journey, it crosses a wide plateau filled with fine soil, which deposits into the eco-sensitive delta at the mouth of this river. This has historically allowed the river to reshape the coast.

However, in 1996 Chinese engineers blocked and redirected the river northward. This has caused a level of erosion that has extensively reshaped the delta.

Here we see the delta imaged by NASA’s Landsat satellites in 1989 (left) and 2009. The 2009 image reveals that the shoreline has been reshaped to protect a series of coastal oil and gas wells. As odd at is seems, this “may be the outcome that the engineers were anxious to achieve.”