A new perspective on the Earth as the 'Blue Marble'

Even the latest picture from space showing a gloriously colorful Earth hasn't changed the view that we are largely covered in water. Well, this new depiction takes all of the Earth's water and gives it some scale as a 3D visualization in comparison with our planet. The result is pretty surprising.

As you can see, Earth's vast oceans are now confined to a blue drop that shockingly doesn't even cover the outline of the United States.

A healthy helping of deep blue hues are key to the iconic "Blue Marble" shot taken by the Apollo 17 crew in 1972, where water dominates the picture and thinking about our planet. It's an entirely different "blue marble" now.

As it turns out, the blue sphere of all of the Earth's water — from the oceans, groundwater, atmosphere and even that which makes up living creatures — fills a space that would fit between Salt Lake City, Utah to Topeka Kansas. That's about 860 miles.

Now, before we all freak out, it's important to remember that this image shows things in three dimensions. The 860-mile blue sphere has a cubic volume of 332,500,000 cubic miles — or better put, it's also 860 miles high because as a 3D representation it's as tall as it is wide. So that really is a lot of water, even though it looks small in comparison to a 3D Earth.

The idea of the drawing was to raise our attention to how water is distributed over the Earth. Ninety six percent of the water on the planet comes from oceans, seas and bays and it not suitable for us to use. And when you consider that in the context of the drawing — that the ninety six percent really is just a thin film over our planet — then we need to start thinking a little bit less casually about the water that we can use.

So, when we consider the water we can actually drink and water our crops with is a miniscule portion of this tiny blue water droplet on our Earth's surface hopefully the illustration will have achieved its goal to make us stop and think…and hopefully to act.

USGS, via Treehugger

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