General, Research, Technology

The Sahara Desert is not as empty as it seems

Scientists have recently been surprised at how littlethey know about the Earth. At school, we were told that the Sahara Desert is one of the most lifeless places on our planet. In the minds of many people, this is a territory strewn with hot sand, where you can only meet caravans of camels and poisonous scorpions. But recently, scientists' view of the largest desert has changed dramatically. Satellite images have shown that the Sahara is full of various objects and cannot be called lifeless for sure. There it is quite possible to find a place to hide from the scorching sun, but the wild animals hiding there are unlikely to welcome unexpected guests. But this is not about that - now we will find out why scientists no longer consider the Sahara empty and what kind of objects it is rich in.

The Sahara Desert is considered the largest in the world

What does the Sahara Desert look like from space?

The unexpected discovery of scientists was told inscientific publication Nature. Relatively recently, the scientific community has the opportunity to take satellite photographs, which show objects with a diameter of 0.5 meters. With the help of such images, scientists from Denmark decided to study a part of our planet with an area of ​​1.3 million square kilometers. For you to understand, this is roughly like the territory of two France. Basically, the studied area affected the territories of Western Sahara and the Sahel arid savannah area. To cover such a large area, scientists needed to take about 11,000 satellite images.

This is how the Sahara Desert looks from space.

In the course of studying the images, scientists found that inthe Sahara Desert has quite a few trees. For a whole year, the author of the scientific work Martin Brandt (Martin Brandt) manually marked in the pictures 90 thousand trees. The researchers were interested in how many trees grow in the Sahara and how closely they are located to each other. It would take them several decades to count them manually on thousands of images. Therefore, scientists decided to provide this task to artificial intelligence, which is able to quickly process large amounts of information.

Once upon a time there were many trees in the Sahara Desert, but over time they disappeared

See also: Where does sand come from in deserts?

Artificial intelligence in science

To train artificial intelligence, scientistsused pictures with manually specified trees. After examining them, the computer understood how the trees look in satellite photographs. In the course of studying all the other photographs not considered by the researchers, he found 1.8 billion trees. On average, dozens of trees grow on one hectare of the Sahara. And we are not talking about dried snags, but about quite healthy plants. It took artificial intelligence only a few hours to figure this out.

In some regions of the Sahara, you can find such trees

For scientists, the results of the study wereunexpected. They believe that, thanks to satellite images, they will be able to monitor the changing number of trees in the desert. There is a possibility that their number is growing in some way. But, most likely, many trees die due to the impact of global warming. Indeed, due to a gradual increase in air temperature on our planet, even in humid regions, entire forests are being destroyed. So if, over time, there are fewer trees in the Sahara, this will not be surprising.

For several years in a row, forests have been burning massively on our planet.

But this news is interesting not only that inthe largest desert has many trees. Note how quickly the artificial intelligence coped with the presented task. If an ordinary person were asked to mark 1.8 billion trees in 11 thousand photographs, it would take him twenty thousand years. That is, if artificial intelligence did not exist, we would not have known about the presence of a large number of trees in the Sahara for a long time. Perhaps scientists would have found another way to find out, but even that would have taken a very long time.

This is far from the first discovery made thanks to artificial intelligence.

It is worth noting that under artificial intelligenceit is now common to understand neural networks that can learn to perform various tasks. And artificial intelligence in the literal sense of the word does not yet exist.

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I recently wrote that the desert is coming soonThe Sahara can be a place for trees and shrubs to grow. For several thousand years, vegetation actually grew on the territory of the present desert, and this was due to the special tilt of the Earth relative to the Sun. You can read about when the desert can again become a great place to live in this material.