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Maui, the second largest Hawaiian island, is made up of two dormant volcanoes, West Maui Mountain and Haleakala. Between those peaks lies Maui’s central plains, which for decades were dominated by sugar cane fields.

The sugar industry in Hawaii dates to 1835 with the establishment of sugar plantations. Sugar cane was a major crop and economic contributor for Hawaii through the 20th century.

When the island’s last large cane mill closed in 2016, 41,000 acres of cane fields began changing to nonnative grasses, which are susceptible to fire.

Landsat is tracking this shift—through the sporadic cloud cover in the tropical paradise—from the bright green shapes that dominated the central plain of the island to the grasses that took over. Dry grasses appear as a brown swath, but the grass greens up in winter, as seen in the January 2022 image. The green grasses are a different shade and pattern than when the land supported sugar cane.

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Feb. 5, 2000, Landsat 7 (path/row 63/46) — Maui, Hawaii, USA
Jan. 8, 2016, Landsat 8 (path/row 63/46) — Maui, Hawaii, USA
Jan. 10, 2017, Landsat 8 (path/row 63/46) — Maui, Hawaii, USA
Nov. 29, 2018, Landsat 8 (path/row 63/46) — Maui, Hawaii, USA
Nov. 5, 2021, Landsat 8 (path/row 63/46) — Maui, Hawaii, USA
Jan. 8, 2022, Landsat 8 (path/row 63/46) — Maui, Hawaii, USA

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References

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