Views of the News
June 6, 2016 - Lake Mead near Las Vegas Reaches Historic Low
The surface level of Lake Mead in Nevada and Arizona has fallen to a historic low as 16 years of ongoing drought in the American Southwest continue to impact the Colorado River Basin. Landsat imagery captures the shrinking of the country’s largest reservoir. In a May 1984 Landsat 5 acquisition, Lake Mead is near its capacity of 1,220 feet above sea level. But 32 years later, in May 2016, Landsat 8 data show the reservoir at what NASA says is 37 percent full.
June 2, 2016 - Brazos River Near Suburban Houston Sees Record Flooding
Heavy rains in late May 2016 caused record flooding on the swollen Brazos River in Texas. Shortwave and red bands on Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) sensor reveal the river’s dramatic rise on May 28, compared to two months earlier, on March 25, when the 840-mile-long waterway ran much more sedately past suburban Houston. The National Weather Service (NWS) reported that the Brazos River 30 miles southwest of the nation’s fourth most-populous city had reached levels not seen since 1913. As of June 1, more than 120 high-water boat rescues from buildings and cars had been reported in the region by Fort Bend County first responders. And the deluge continues; NWS predicted as much as 10 more inches of rain in and around Houston by June 3.
May 19, 2016 - Landsat 8 Imagery Reveals Heavy Flooding in Sri Lanka
Data acquired from Landsat 8 on May 18, 2016, reveals swollen waterways in flood-ravaged Sri Lanka. Three days of torrential rain in the island country just off the southern tip of India have caused massive landslides and flooding, the latter of which is evident when compared to the March 31, 2016, Landsat image. Sri Lankan officials say 75 people are initially unaccounted for after mudslides hit three farming villages in central Kegalle District, and 350,000 people have been displaced across the country. A history of clearing forests for agricultural use in the country is a potential cause of this type of flooding.
May 13, 2016 - Landsat 8 Shows Burn Extent, Active Fire at Fort McMurray
Eleven days after a wildfire first sparked south of Fort McMurray in northern Alberta, Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager (OLI) captured imagery of one of the most destructive infernos in Canadian history. The May 12, 2016, false-color image relies on shortwave infrared, near infrared, and red light (OLI bands 7-5-4) to show hazy blue smoke, bright orange active burning spots, and a reddish-brown burn scar that surrounds Fort McMurray as it extends east and south toward the Saskatchewan border. The fire, which began May 1, has burned an area approaching 600,000 acres, destroyed over 2,400 structures in and around Fort McMurray, and forced the evacuation of almost 90,000 people.
May 5, 2016 - Wildfire Forces Evacuations in Fort McMurray, Alberta
A massive wildfire near Fort McMurray in Alberta, Canada, fueled by dry conditions and high winds has destroyed 1,600 structures and forced more than 88,000 people to evacuate the area. On May 3, 2016, Landsat 8 acquired this false-color image of the inferno. Using shortwave infrared (SWIR) and near infrared (NIR) bands to help penetrate clouds and smoke, Landsat is able to show the active fires’ hot spots, which appear orange. Burned area is dark red, and smoke is hazy blue. The fire, which began May 1, had consumed almost 25,000 acres by May 3.
March 29, 2016 - Mississippi River Floods the Deep South
Late winter storms March 10–12, 2016, drenched areas of Louisiana, eastern Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas with up to 20 inches of rain, resulting in significant damage and evacuations. Though earlier rainfall had pushed the Lower Mississippi River toward the top of its banks, it appears largely contained in a Landsat 8 image acquired March 4, 2016. Sixteen days later, the deep blue floodwaters spill on to the landscape surrounding Vicksburg, MS, at the center of the image. At the bottom center, the river is engorged just south of Natchez, MS.
March 22, 2016 - Alaska Earthquake Anniversary
On March 27, 52 years ago, the largest earthquake in U.S. history struck Alaska. Tsunamis and landslides swept Anchorage neighborhoods into Cook Inlet. Aerial photographs captured the quake’s dramatic impact. In the 1953 image, the Turnagain neighborhood west of the city’s downtown area is only beginning to emerge from the trees along the inlet. Eight years after the disaster, in 1972, the wooded shoreline has vanished, the bluffs now submerged in a sediment band. See the USGS EarthExplorer Web site for millions more aerial photographs in the EROS Center archive.
February 25, 2016 - Accounting for the clouds
With its third-year anniversary in flight this February, Landsat 8 continues to prove its worth in treating the satellite-imaging headache that is clouds. Landsat’s newest satellite contains a spectral band on its Operational Land Imager (OLI) that identifies thin, high-altitude cirrus clouds that are difficult to see and can skew pixel data. In the image on the left, cirrus formations drift above the landscape. On the right, those cirrus clouds are difficult to discern in the natural-color Landsat 8 image that looks down on Columbia, S.C., and across the border north to Charlotte, N.C.
January 7, 2016 - New Year’s Flooding in the Midwest
At the end of 2015, a series of storms dropped 6–10 inches of rain in a few days over the central part of the United States. Missouri and Illinois were particularly hard hit. Flowing north to south at the top center of the image is the Wabash River, which forms the border between Illinois and Indiana. The Wabash flows into the Ohio River. Water is blue in these images. The December 8, 2015, image shows the rivers at normal water levels. The January 1, 2016, image shows the swollen Wabash and Ohio Rivers, each of them submerging the floodplains.
October 29, 2015 - Death Valley 1,000-year Flood Event
This October, a system of storms caused significant flooding in most of Death Valley National Park, California. Flash floods from the storm destroyed roads and utilities, and damaged several historical structures. This image pair contrasts an October 2014 image (a year with typical precipitation) to October 2015. The false color images highlight hydrogeology; the areas in green to blue are the locations with moisture content. Especially striking is the Badwater Basin, normally a dry lakebed. In the 2015 image, it is full of water.