Support Provided ByLearn More
Planet EarthPlanet Earth

NOVA Marathons: Planet Earth

Six episodes exploring our unique and awe-inspiring planet.

ByNOVA STAFFNOVA NextNOVA Next
planet-earth-16x9.jpg

Earth from space. Image Credit: NASA

Hello, NOVA fans! We understand that many of you may be spending more quality time at home than usual. And, as schools across the country close or remain closed, fostering student learning at home is a top priority.

In the upcoming weeks, we’ll be sharing collections of some of our favorite NOVA films—all organized by subject to make bingeing, learning, and entertainment as easy as possible for science lovers of all ages.

Ever wondered what makes our home planet such a unique and powerful place? Get ready: The subject of this collection is “Planet Earth.”

Polar Extremes (2020)

In this two-hour special, renowned paleontologist Kirk Johnson takes us on an epic adventure through time at the polar extremes of our planet. Following a trail of strange fossils found in all the wrong places—beech trees in Antarctica, hippo-like mammals in the Arctic—Johnson uncovers the bizarre history of the poles, from miles-high ice sheets to warm polar forests teeming with life. What caused such dramatic changes at the ends of the Earth? And what can the past reveal about our planet’s climate today—and in the future?

Decoding the Weather Machine (2018)

Disastrous hurricanes. Widespread droughts and wildfires. Withering heat. Extreme rainfall. It is hard not to conclude that something’s up with the weather, and many scientists agree. It’s the result of the weather machine itself—our climate—changing, becoming hotter and more erratic. In this two-hour documentary, NOVA will cut through the confusion around climate change. Why do scientists overwhelmingly agree that our climate is changing, and that human activity is causing it? How and when will it affect us through the weather we experience? And what will it take to bend the trajectory of planetary warming toward more benign outcomes? Join scientists around the world on a quest to better understand the workings of the weather and climate machine we call Earth, and discover how we can be resilient—even thrive—in the face of enormous change.

Rise of the Superstorms (2018)

In just one devastating month, Houston, Florida, and the Caribbean were changed forever. In summer 2017, three monster hurricanes swept in from the Atlantic one after another, shattering storm records and killing hundreds of people. First, Harvey brought catastrophic rain and flooding to Houston, causing $125 billion in damage. Less than two weeks later, Irma lashed the Caribbean with 180 mile per hour winds—and left the island of Barbuda uninhabitable. Hot on Irma’s heels, Maria intensified from a Category 1 to a Category 5 hurricane in just 30 hours, then ravaged Puerto Rico and left millions of people without power. As the planet warms, are these superstorms the new normal? How well can we predict them? And as the U.S. faces the next hurricane season, does it need to prepare for the reality of climate refugees? NOVA takes you inside the 2017 superstorms and the cutting-edge research that will determine how well equipped we are to deal with hurricanes in the future.

Killer Volcanoes (2017)

Follow a team of volcano sleuths as they embark on a worldwide hunt for an elusive volcanic mega-eruption that plunged medieval Earth into a deep freeze. The mystery begins when archaeologists find a hastily dug mass grave of 4,000 men, women, and children in London. At first they assume it’s a plague pit from the Black Death, but when they date the bones, they turn out to be too old by a century. So what killed off these families? The chronicles of that time describe a run of wild weather that devastated crops and spread famine across Europe. NOVA’s expert team looks for the signature of a volcanic eruption big enough to have blasted a huge cloud of ash and sulfuric acid into the atmosphere, which chilled the entire planet. From Greenland to Antarctica, the team finds telltale “fingerprints” in ice and soil layers until, finally, they narrow down the culprit to a smoldering crater on a remote Indonesian island. Nearly 750 years ago, this volcano’s colossal explosion shot a million tons of rock and ash every second into the atmosphere. Across the globe, it turned summer into winter. What would happen if another such cataclysm struck again today?

Support Provided ByLearn More

Decoding the Great Pyramid (2019)

The 6 million-ton Great Pyramid of Giza is the last surviving wonder of the ancient world. How did the Egyptians engineer the mighty pharaoh Khufu’s tomb so precisely, with none of today’s surveying and power tools? And who were the thousands of laborers who raised the stones? Were they slaves or volunteers, and how were they housed, fed, and organized? "Decoding the Great Pyramid" presents the latest evidence from groundbreaking archaeological research that has transformed our understanding of the ancient world’s most ambitious engineering project, revealing a “lost city" and intimate details of the lives of the laborers and officials who toiled on the vast construction. Amazingly, French archaeologists recently found the logbook of a labor team that delivered limestone blocks to build the Great Pyramid, yielding crucial insights into the planning and logistics behind the operation. Beyond these construction secrets, "Decoding the Great Pyramid" traces how mobilizing the colossal labor and resources invested in the monument transformed ancient Egypt, uniting a nation behind the common goal of ensuring eternity for the pharaoh and continuing prosperity for everyone in this life and the next.

Earth from Space (2013)

"Earth From Space" is a groundbreaking two-hour special that reveals a spectacular new space-based vision of our planet. Produced in extensive consultation with NASA scientists, NOVA takes data from Earth-observing satellites and transforms it into dazzling visual sequences, each one exposing the intricate and surprising web of forces that sustains life on Earth. Viewers witness how dust blown from the Sahara fertilizes the Amazon; how a vast submarine "waterfall" off Antarctica helps drive ocean currents around the world; and how the sun's heating up of the southern Atlantic gives birth to a colossally powerful hurricane. From the microscopic world of water molecules vaporizing over the ocean to the magnetic field that is bigger than Earth itself, the show reveals the astonishing beauty and complexity of our dynamic planet.

Receive emails about upcoming NOVA programs and related content, as well as featured reporting about current events through a science lens.

Funding for NOVA Next is provided by the Eleanor and Howard Morgan Family Foundation.

National corporate funding for NOVA is provided by Draper. Major funding for NOVA is provided by the David H. Koch Fund for Science, the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, and PBS viewers. Additional funding is provided by the NOVA Science Trust.