Every year, tens of thousands of people descend upon an unforgiving windswept playa in northwestern Nevada to build a city.
Within months, the city is gone.
Burning Man is named for the wooden effigy set ablaze at the end of the weeklong celebration in the temporary metropolis of Black Rock City.
It all happens on an ancient alkali flat nestled between mountain ranges that fills with runoff after snowy winters.
Band 7 of Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager is sensitive to moisture in and above the soil. It makes the silty water that runs through the playa on May 22, 2017 pop in bright aqua.
The city was built months later. The 7-mile pentagonal “trash fence” that catches wind-blown waste and the city’s radial roadways are clearly visible in this image from August 26.
The winding white road leading into Burning Man stands out against a light blue gray streak on the playa.
It all disappears quickly. The revelers who call themselves “burners” are expected to leave no trace as they depart. Organizers begin to tear down and haul away structures after the Labor Day finale.
By October 29, only a rough outline of Black Rock City remains.
Landsat imagery offers a unique tool to track both natural and man-made land change throughout the year.