Views of the News
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.
August 22, 2016 - Landsat Shows Spread of Soberanes Fire
A wildfire near Soberanes Creek by Big Sur along coastal California started July 22, 2016, and spread to over 86,000 acres one month later. California Department of Forest and Fire Protection officials say the blaze began after an illegal campfire in a state park was abandoned. By mid-August, the fire had destroyed 57 homes and was threatening 410 more structures. Landsat 8 images from July 13 and August 14 show its dramatic progression as active fire burns orange in the scene, and smoke appears as a blue haze.
August 9, 2016 - Landsat Reveals Scar of ‘Good Burn’ at Guadalupe Mountains
Wildfires in wilderness areas like Guadalupe Mountains National Park in west Texas are a danger, but can produce what land managers call a “good burn,” too. The Coyote Fire, which burned from May 7, 2016, through June 17, is a prime example of that. Pre- and post-fire images from Landsat 8 show a significant, 14,442-acre burn scar that emerged bright red within the park’s high country. Lightning started the wildfire, and strong winds drove it to the Texas-New Mexico border. As many as 300 firefighters worked to keep the blaze from encroaching on private lands or reaching park structures, while officials decided to let portions of the fire simply burn. Areas of the densely wooded park hadn’t burned in almost a century. Unharnessed, the Coyote Fire consumed dead wood and saplings that could have fueled future catastrophic blazes.
July 12, 2016 - Landsat, ASTER Work Together on Russian Wildfires
Remotely sensed imagery of wildfires burning in the Siberia region of Russia shows the complementary possibilities of Landsat 8 and NASA’s ASTER sensor aboard its Terra satellite. Lightning triggered dozens of forest fires in remote Siberia in late June 2016, burning as much as 7,400 acres, according to Russia’s TASS news agency. Imagery acquired from Terra ASTER on June 29 shows smoke billowing from a small and a large fire, as well as some older burn scars. A day later, when Landsat 8 passed overhead, there was almost no smoke coming from the smaller fire, and a more pronounced scar. Vegetation appears red in the false-color imagery because near infrared (NIR) spectral bands used by both sensors are sensitive to vegetation greenness and were placed in the red position of Red-Green-Blue (RGB) composite images. Burn scars appear a dark brown to black with this band combination.
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.