Large areas of the western United States have been affected by the drought of 2012. For example, Landsat images, acquired and processed by the U.S. Geological Survey, provide a record of the effects of the drought on the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Wetlands area in central Kansas.
As the largest interior marsh in the United States, Cheyenne Bottoms provides a resting place for millions of migrating birds every fall. As the water levels dwindle and disappear, wildlife officials are concerned that the effects could be devastating for the habitat. In 2010 there was sufficient water in the wetland area; in 2011 and into the spring of 2012, the levels had already started to diminish. From May 30 to July 17 of 2012, virtually all the water had evaporated from the habitat area.
Landsat data offer objective, scientifically reliable information on the effects of climate change to land areas. In the case of the Cheyenne Bottoms Wildlife Wetlands area, Landsat data are useful to officials as they determine what actions to take to sustain a habitat for the nesting waterfowl.