Views of the News
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.
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.