Image of the Week

Images found during the week that show change from our past that correlate to current events.

Juniper Road Fire

Lightning sparked a fire on June 19, 2011, within the Holly Shelter Game Land in North Carolina. Hot, dry conditions fueled the fast ignition of over 30,000 acres of thick evergreen shrubs and deep highly flammable coal-like soil. Lingering drought in the area has hampered efforts to extinguish the fire, which is currently 90 percent contained. However, some of the fire area involves peat bogs, and fires in those units are very difficult to end and may burn for a very long time.

Rural New York Flooding from Hurricane Irene

This image (left) taken on July 30, 2011 with the Landsat 5 Thematic Mapper (TM) shows the New York farming area called the Black Dirt region. This area used to be the bottom of a shallow lake, which resulted in very rich organic soils, shown here in deep browns and reds. Located an hour's drive from New York City, this area has been the source for a variety of onions and other vegetables for over a century.

Solovetsky Islands

Landsat data are collected over much of the land mass of the planet. That global coverage allows scientists, educators, and resource managers to observe and study areas normally out of range of traditional cameras.

A good example is the Solovetsky Island chain.

Lee Soaks Gulf Coast area

Tropical Depression Lee formed in late August 2011 and made landfall in the Gulf Coast area during Labor Day weekend. The center of the storm stretched across the central Gulf Coast, dumping torrential rains in the low lying bayou communities of Louisiana. Up to 10 inches of rain fell, prompting warnings of extensive and flash floods throughout the area.

Bastrop County Complex Fire

Two fires started near Bastrop State Park in south central Texas in early September 2011, near Bastrop, Texas (pop. 8,000). Bastrop is 30 miles southeast of Austin, Texas, and the fires extend into the eastern edge of the community. The Union Chapel and Bastrop fires together are known as the Bastrop County Complex Fire. The Landsat images acquired on August 26 before the fires began, and again on September 11, show how the fire has scorched thousands of acres.

Missouri River flooding near Hamburg, Iowa

In spring of 2011, the communities along the Missouri River were threatened by high flows and record releases from dams in Montana and the Dakotas. Heavy rains and snowpack resulted in near-record flooding along parts of the Missouri. One community especially hard hit was Hamburg, Iowa (pop. 1,300).

Levees had protected Hamburg in the past; however, the unusual flow in 2011 put levees to the test along much of the 1,700 miles of the Missouri, and in early June levees near Hamburg failed, causing extensive flooding and evacuation of many homes.

Elephant Butte Reservoir

Prolonged drought in the southwestern United States has affected many water bodies, such as Elephant Butte Reservoir along the Rio Grande River, north of Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. The hydroelectric reservoir has had declining water levels over the past 20 years, as indicated in these Landsat images.

In 2009, the Bureau of Reclamation established a plan to implement conservation measures to restore water levels in the reservoir.

Fires Scorch Northern Australia

Extreme dry conditions have led to major fires in north central Australia the past year. In February, fires along the coast caused extensive damage and loss of life.

More recently, dry conditions sparked many fires in the Tanami Desert region further inland. The Tanami Desert region is the least populated region of Australia and covers an area approximately the size of Texas and Iowa combined. The desert sand ridges and sand plains have limited vegetation, largely short grasses and shrubs.

Samuel Dam, Rondônia, Brazil

The Samuel Dam is located along the Jamari River in Rondônia, Brazil.

These Landsat images show the area in 1984, shortly after construction of the hydroelectric dam began, and in 2011. The reservoir flooded the upstream forest and displaced many people. Also evident in the images is the deforestation that has affected much of the region.

The nearly 40 years of Landsat images allow for documentation of many broad-scale changes on Earth, and increasingly enable the forecasting of change into the future.

Aquaculture Changes Mexican Shoreline

These Landsat images show changes to Sonora Mexico.s western coastline, located on the Gulf of California, due to the construction of shrimp farms. Since the early 1990s, shrimp aquaculture has rapidly expanded in the area. While this industry has provided profits and employment, there have also been concerns about how it has changed the ecosystems of the Gulf area. The shrimp industry has also created disputes about property rights to the communal coastal lands, which once were part of a federal maritime zone until reform in 1992.

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