Hacker News new | comments | ask | show | jobs | submit login
Norway: photographs taken of the same places separated by long periods of time (theatlantic.com)
269 points by curtis on Nov 4, 2015 | hide | past | web | favorite | 52 comments

Interesting caption to one of the photos regarding how the temperature of the environment has changed:

>Axel Lindahl’s picture of Engabreen from 1889 shows the foot of the glacier, where there was only ice, glacial gravel, water and bare mountainsides in a seemingly cold and hostile landscape. Now, more than 120 years later, the valley has become far more fertile. Birch forest, shore meadows, willow thickets and marshland have established themselves, while the glacier arm has retreated far back up the mountainside.

I don't know about the forest being caused by climate as much as just technology. In US in New England we see the exact same thing in old pictures and new pictures.http://serc.carleton.edu/vignettes/collection/24682.html

"Imagine a time machine that could take you back 150 years. Open the door and look out at the slopes of Vermont, the Green Mountain State. In 1850, the slopes would be anything but green. Most would be barren, stripped of their trees, and trampled by grazing sheep."

Changes in landscape and colonization by various plants as glaciers retreat is a very, very well-documented process. The vegetation changes in the picture shown are unambiguously due to the retreat of the glacier.

Global changes aside, it takes awhile to form soils that will support plant life. Near the foot of a retreating glacier, you'll always have till and moraines. If they've been recently exposed, they'll always be bare. It takes a few decades for forests, etc to get established.


Deforestation was happening in the 1600s and 1700s and required the stopping of many saw mills.

I just say this because humanity really did horrible environmental things throughout our history. For example the ceders of Lebanon being completly cut down by 800 BC and the deforestation of Israel during the crusades which never came back.

That's all very true, but for that particular picture, the lack of vegetation is because the area was covered by ice only a few years before. Note the lack of soil in the older photo. There's only rocks and silt.

Yes, agreed. I found more images that capture the changing climate in action: http://climate.nasa.gov/state_of_flux#Qori-Kalis-930px-80-v2...

Wow, these are really cool. I lived in the farmhouse on the other side of the bridge in #16 2 summers ago. What a beautiful country.

Idea for computer-imagery/ML people: a method to realistically recolor old photos by sampling from new photos of the same place, with some caveats (for eg. the object must have a corresponding object, etc)

I remember seeing this/such papers elsewhere. They have appeared in conference/papers for the last few years too. Here I'm suggesting untrained coloring of 'new' images from existing though, so maybe what I'm asking is a simpler problem? "Transferring colors from base (new) image to target (old) image using such and such sampling" would be how I would put my problem. The paper you link to would be more "learning to transfer colors by looking at how grayscale images transfer to color", right? Am I missing something?

If you like this, please check out Historypin[1], which is a less known Google backed project to overlay historical photographs with Google's Street View.

[1] https://www.historypin.org/en/explore/geo/59.919462,10.74537...

It's interesting to see how churches are fixpoints in most pictures.

People rarely tear down a church, churches in many places especially in Nordic countries where often the only "real" building in town as they were initially built by Lutheran missionaries you can see the same thing from very old pictures in Iceland you'll see a village with pretty much only turf(sod) buildings and then a more or less modern (for it's time) church. IIRC the first masonry building in Iceland was a church, won't surprise me if in many of the more remote parts of Norway and Sweden that would be the case, unlike Iceland Norway and Sweden have had at least plenty of timber and didn't had to build houses out of patches of grass...

Whilst you're completely right, it's also worth mentioning that in Norway, quite a few (a dozen? two dozen?) of old wooden stave churches were (tragically) burned down in the 80s and 90s by, amongst others, arsonist members of the black metal scene.

A lot of churches in the UK have been converted into houses or business premises.

The churches are the only constant whilst the landscape and towns chances around them.

Some of the translations are surely made by a Norwegian. Those are not corn, but wheat bushels. In Norwegian wheat is "korn", and corn is "mais".

In UK English "corn" generally means wheat - we'd call "corn" "maize":


I don't think it holds true anymore, if you go to any store in the UK now Corn will be well maize, I'm pretty sure the American definition of corn has taken over the common British definition.

Just like how the British word Soccer took over in America. http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2014/06/why...

I still think wheat when I hear corn... except corn on the cob, or sweet corn which are maize.

Hmmm. The plot thickens!

It's the same in German, probably all northern-european languages. "Korn" is a generalized term for cereal grain, and I think the best literal translation would indeed be "grain". I suspect it's related to the english "kernel".

The rocks are fascinating to me for some reason.

Obviously they're not going to change over a mere 120 years, but the fact that you can see and touch the exact same spot as how many other thousands of people across the generations - that's the really interesting thing.

I've been playing Banished a lot lately. In some of these photos, I found myself thinking that they had a well-located forester in a game of Banished.

Similarly, I was struck by how much the older photos reminded me of Skellige in Witcher 3.

This presentation needs that back/forth javascript partition slider that allows you to directly compare old to new.

Some of the pictures show signs of warming (although in one of the text descriptions it's attributed to planting of trees), but there's virtually no sea level rise evident?

The global average sea level is only estimated to have risen about 20 cm (8 inches) since 1880, so it wouldn't really be noticeable in a photograph, especially on steep coasts like Norway's. Whether the photograph was taken at high vs. low tide would make a bigger difference in most cases.

The land level in that part of the world has been rising for the past 100 years, counteracting most changes in sea levels:


Also, more trees might relate to stricter environmental laws (you can't simply take an axe and chop a random tree nowadays) and more advanced and energy efficient heating sources that use biomass briquettes, electricity and gas instead of tree logs from the nearby thicket.

Land owners can generally chop down trees as they wish; with some exceptions, which mostly don't apply in these photos. I think there are three main reasons for the increase in woodland: 1. Less cultivated land; including less land used for grazing (eg. by sheep). 2. Other sources of heating (mostly electricity, some oil, and still some wood, but usually not taken from just outside the door; there is very little use of gas in Norway). 3. Milder climate has raised the tree line. Which of these is most significant probably varies.

Interesting. The bit that I found most noticeable in the then/now comparison was that people in the past really did not like trees :)

Every bit of human habitation was surrounded by open areas denuded of trees. It actually looked unpleasant and sterile to see the lack of trees near everything man-made. Roads, fields, home...no trees anywhere in the vicinity.

> Every bit of human habitation was surrounded by open areas denuded of trees.

I theorize that is due to the nearby trees all being used for firewood.

A lot of the difference in vegetation is due to climate change. I'm Norwegian and born in the beginning of October, which was first snow at the time. Now it never snows in October. You have to wait late November or early December. That sort of thing makes a lot of difference to plants.

You can chop down trees in Norway.

However, trees don't necessarily grow unaided in many of the spots on those pictures. Here's a village I know: http://www.winnem.com/Assets/images/frambergkirkesaether.gif shows lots of trees, a century ago there were none there. They were planted in a big campaign around 1950-1970, in places where no tree could grow alone but a dozen together might grow up and shelter each other if tended a bit. All the schoolchildren planted and tended trees.

Global sea level has risen less than a foot in the past 100 years. Although in environments like this, I would assume isostatic rebound (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Post-glacial_rebound) would play a large role in apparent local sea level changes.

Look at the ground that is covered by water it's clearly tidal shore there are patches of water everywhere.

The rise of see level can be seen pretty clearly in photo no. 6.

You can't be sure that isn't just because the tide is higher. The land now covered by water looked like tideland in the older picture as well.

It's almost certainly the tide. I'm familiar with the area around Torghatten. The high tide/low tide difference there can be ~2 meters, more than enough to explain all the variation in sealevel.

Frustrating that the images are almost-but-not-quite aligned, especially in the foreground. I think that makes it look like the towns have changed more than they have.

What would it take to get pixel perfect alignment in a big image like this? For starters, you'd have to figure out the exact lens and zoom level, and get to precisely the right spot...

I was thinking the same and concluded that creating lenses back then probably involved manual work, and were more hand made in general. So the distortion we're seeing is probably due the higher degree of imperfection in the lens sphere shape of the old lense.

But theoretically this could be corrected further using software. If you correct one picture manually, and used the same distortion as a reference for other pictures. Maybe...

No idea if there is software like this anywhere.

"If you correct one picture manually, and used the same distortion as a reference for other pictures"

All the pictures would need to have been taken with the same old camera, though, which I think is not the case here.

Only the camera position is required to get good alignment, lens and zoom level is fixable in photoshop, just crop and scale a bit.

Unfortunately, it's very hard to identify the exact camera position, since alignment of foreground objects can be matched from different positions at the expense of matching the original perspective. Old cameras had huge imaging plates, with low crop factors, I suspect what happens with a lot of these old/new match-ups is that the photographer is standing far from the original spot to achieve "best possible" alignment with the foreground crop - which of course screws up your perspective. You could align against the background, but then you'll have poor alignment on the foreground.

Cleaning up the crop/zoom in photoshop does not help you unless you are shooting from the exact same spot to get the same perspective.


Stunning photos! Number 11 is particularly striking because it captures global warming in action!

Keep in mind that this is natural shrinking of glaciers that's been going on for 10,000 years. Nothing to do with the newer AGW.

So does number 2 (although I don't know how big the seasonal variation is?)

What is most striking is the return of the trees

Global warming. Global warming is all I see.

Photoshopped. Where did the cows go genius?!

Applications are open for YC Summer 2019

Guidelines | FAQ | Support | API | Security | Lists | Bookmarklet | Legal | Apply to YC | Contact