Views of the News
May 22, 2017 - Okefenokee Fire Continues to Burn
A wildfire ignited by lightning in the Okefenokee National Wildlife Refuge on April 6, 2017, is persisting into May. Landsat 8’s shortwave infrared band, which is sensitive to soil and ash in burned areas, combined with the near-infrared band, which is sensitive to healthy vegetation, to provide an accurate distinction between burned and unburned vegetation. Recent reports indicate that good progress has been made to extinguish the flames; however, drought conditions are expected to continue in this area of extremely dense vegetation.
May 3, 2017 - Kaskawulsh Glacier, Canada
Kaskawulsh Glacier in the Kluane National Park and Reserve of southwestern Yukon Territory, Canada, has retreated over the past several decades and caused a rare instance of “river piracy”—the diversion of the headwaters of one stream into another one. Before spring 2016, the majority of the glacier’s meltwater flowed north into the Slims River. As the 2016 Landsat 8 image shows, the majority of the meltwater now flows toward the east into the Kaskawulsh River.
April 19, 2017 - The Wildflower Superbloom in California from Landsat’s Perspective
After 5 years of drought, California finally got relief during the winter of 2016–2017 with much needed precipitation. One result of this additional moisture was a springtime abundance of wildflowers. This pair of natural color images from Landsat 8 shows the difference in vegetation from March 2016 to March 2017. The latest image is overall much more green, but what really stand out are the brilliant shades of yellow-green on both sides of the Cuyama River.
March 30, 2017 - Landsat Monitors Mining at Center of North America, Near Town of Center
A geographer at the University of Buffalo in New York recently calculated that the town of Center, North Dakota, is the geographic center of North America. While the connection between the town’s name and its location is coincidental, Landsat sensors confirm another name the area goes by—Coal Country. In August 1984, the Landsat 5 image shows significant surface mining of lignite coal just to the southeast of town, during a summer when drought had browned the countryside. Thirty-two years later, the mining activity moved to the southwest of Center. Additional mining operation also began near the Milton R. Young Power Plant just southwest of Nelson Lake.
February 17, 2017 - Wildfires Ravage Central, South-Central Chile
Wildfires fueled by dry conditions, high temperatures, and strong winds scorched central Chile at a level Chilean officials say they haven’t seen in decades. On January 24, Landsat 8 Operational Land Imager (OLI) mosaics show the burned land primarily south of Empedrado, with blue smoke and orange flames visible from an active fire on the periphery of the scar. By February 2, the burn scar expanded to completely surround the city, and extends north all the way to and beyond the Maule River.
February 10, 2017 - January Rain, Snow Refills California Reservoirs
A decade of drought in California has eased after the first month of 2017 thanks to heavy rains and snow. For the first time in three years, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported in late January 2017 that not a single area in California is considered in “exceptional drought,” the most severe category, compared to about 40 percent of the state under the most severe designation a year ago. Landsat 8 shows the dramatic reversal in these false-color views of Lake Nacimiento and Lake San Antonio along the coast in central California. As of late 2016, Lake Nacimiento was only 22 percent full. Today, it is at 81 percent full. Similarly, Lake San Antonio had been emptied to critical levels to supply the Salinas Valley with groundwater, and at only 3 percent full, was closed to public use on July 1, 2015. As of February 1, 2017, it was 26 percent full.
February 3, 2017 - Argentina Flooding Has Major Impact on Soybean Production
Heavy rains in late December 2016 and early January 2017 are affecting soybean production in Argentina’s bread-basket provinces, as well as soy prices worldwide. While rainfall is common in northeastern Argentina from December through February each year, the major flooding of soybean fields is easily recognizable in the January 2017 Landsat 8 image, compared to a Landsat image from almost exactly two years earlier. With almost 4 million acres of Argentina soybeans affected by the flooding, soybean and soymeal prices hit six-month highs in mid-January on the Chicago Board of Trade.
January 17, 2017 - Wildfires Scorch Pampas Region of Argentina
Since mid-December 2016, roughly two dozen wildfires in the Pampas region of Argentina have consumed almost 2.5 million acres while unleashing giant plumes of dense smoke. Likely caused by thunderstorms that followed a stretch of severe drought, the first fires started southwest of the city of Bahía Blanca. A Landsat 8 scene on December 22, 2016, shows smaller red burn scars from those initial blazes—an area of approximately 100,000 acres. Despite rain in the final days of December, a handful of hot spots persisted, and the fires spread. When it passed overhead on January 7, 2017, Landsat 8 captured dramatic imagery of large red burn scars across the landscape.
January 4, 2017 - Rare Snow Falls at the Edge of Sahara Desert
In mid-December 2016, a rarity occurred on the edge of the Sahara Desert in northwest Africa. It snowed. Landsat 7’s Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus (ETM+) sensor captured the image that shows the white covering on the caramel-colored landscape southwest of the Algerian community of Ain Sefra. All the snow except that at the highest elevations melted soon after, a fact Landsat 8 confirmed when it passed overhead on December 27. Ain Sefra’s last snowfall occurred on February 18, 1979.
October 21, 2016 - Hurricane Matthew Exacts Heavy Toll on Haiti
A week after Hurricane Matthew slammed through southwestern Haiti on October 4, 2016, Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager sensor provided dramatic documentation of destruction in the Caribbean country. Data acquired on September 26 shows the landscape green with vegetation. On October 12, eight days after the storm, the hillsides are denuded after the Category 4 storm dropped up to 30 inches of rain, washing away crops and fallows. Also evident in the post-storm image is a surge of sediment in the coastal waters at the mouth of the Ravine du Sud River near the seaport town of Les Cayes. Geologists say the sediment likely comes from slopes that lacked protective tree cover.