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.
Image of the Week
Images found during the week that show change from our past that correlate to current events.
Fires continue to destroy residences, grassland cover, and forests in the western United States. Landsat images, acquired and processed by the U.S. Geological Survey, illustrate the damage caused by fires in the Nevada/Oregon border region.
The June 26, 2012, image shows the area before a series of fires developed.
The 2012 drought, which has affected much of the cropland in the Midwest and the western United States, has also had a major effect on the level of the Mississippi River. The diminishing flow of the river has delayed barge traffic and movement of cargoes to ports at the lower mouth of the river.
40% of the conterminous United States drains into the Mississippi River. The drought, which has diminished the flow from feeder streams, has led to a 30–50 foot drop in the river level. A drop of one foot lessens the amount of cargo that can be carried downstream by 200 tons.
Landsat satellite data, acquired and processed by the U.S. Geological Survey, illustrate the effects of Hurricane Isaac on land between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain northwest of New Orleans, Louisiana.
The hurricane made landfall in the region on August 28, 2012, and moved very slowly north. While levees in the New Orleans area prevented massive flooding in that city, strong winds, rain, and storm surges caused massive flooding in the region between the lakes.
Day County, located in the northeastern corner of South Dakota, sits within the Coteau des Prairies – a plateau created from deposits derived from repeated glaciation. Many small lakes occur in this region due to a perched water table. In the past 20 years, lake waters have been swallowing up land, roads, and homes in the region. The area around the town of Waubay, which is noted on these Landsat images acquired in 1991 and 2011, is particularly affected.
A large grass fire that started August 2 burned over 58,000 acres of grassland and destroyed over 380 homes in Creek County, Oklahoma. Residents of small towns in the path of the fire were evacuated in this drought stricken area west of the city of Tulsa. The fire was extinguished within days and residents were allowed back by the end of the month. An arson suspect has been charged for starting the fire. With daytime temperatures frequently topping 100 degrees, efforts to contain and control wildfires in western states have become increasingly difficult.
Étang Saumâtre and Lago Enriquillo are saline lakes found in Hispaniola’s rift valley along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Since both lakes are in a depression, there is no outflow to drain the lakes, so they are at the mercy of evaporation, rainfall variability, and runoff from the surrounding countryside. These three Landsat images from 1986, 2004, and 2012 show how dramatically the lake levels can fluctuate.
Lightning started the Mustang Complex Fire in northeastern Idaho on July 30, 2012, and soon had consumed more than 330,000 acres of mountainous pine forests in the Salmon-Challis National Forest. By the end of September the U.S. Forest Service announced the fire had been "significantly moderated and rehabilitation is beginning." Still, high winds and extreme drought continue to hamper the efforts of those working to extinguish the flames, and many homes continue to be threatened.
The Hetch Hetchy Reservoir is a reservoir in Yosemite National Park in California. Following the 1906 earthquake in San Francisco, residents needed a source of clean water. While the project was strongly opposed by environmentalists, in 1913 President Woodrow Wilson signed the Raker Act, which allowed the dam to be built in 1923 along the Tuolumne River. The reservoir holds over 117 billion gallons of water and serves as a water supply for more than 30 cities in the area.
The Al Farafra Oasis has resulted in a greening of the desert in western Egypt. Unlike many newly developed agricultural efforts, these fields are not based on deep-well irrigation, but on surface water associated with the oasis.
These Landsat images acquired on January 30, 1987, and October 25, 2012, show the increased agricultural activity in the area around the town of Qasr al Farafra. Improved infrastructure, such as paved roads, has increased accessibility to Qasr al Farafra. This ease of access has brought in agricultural laborers and tourists alike.