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The taifun Haiyan hit the phillipines with wind speed up to 315 km/h, accompanied by a spring flood, on the 8th of November 2013. A water wall, 7.5 m in height, threatened the city of Tacloban which is located less than 5 m above sea level. The satellite image taken by ASTER shows vegetation in red, sealed surfaces in white to silver, soil in brown and water in black. The white spots are clouds.

The puce-coloured hills signal that the local forests lost their leaves or snapped entirely.  Whether this was caused by the storm cannot be examined because this region is often covered in clouds.

Looking at the images carefully, the white to grey areas near the coast streaked by brown lines attract attention, and there is few settlement on the southern coast. The flood teared away many of the buildings and covered the streets in mud. The southern coastal area is partly black, meaning that water has accumulated in sinks.

 

Location: Philippines

Picture taken on November 15, 2013

Sensor: Terra ASTER

USGS / EROS; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/

The indigenous peoples of Latin America are facing serious problems caused by the large-scale deforestation of the rain forests. The false-colour image of Bolivia is representative of this issue. Losing their living environment, which was once used sustainably, indigenous peoples are increasingly marginalised and forced to live in poverty. Tropical rain forests are particularly sensitive to outside influences because they are drawing all of their potential from the natural cycles of materials because their ground is lacking nutrient stores. The exploitation of the grounds is followed by the abandonment of the fields leaving huge scars in the landscape. Sadly, the once so rich diversity of species will probably be lost forever.

 

Location: Bolivia
Picture taken on August 9, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: IR/G/B

USGS; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

The delta of the Paraná River is a huge arboreous wetland 30 km northeast of Buenos Aires, Argentina. This area is a popular destination for guided boat tours. Moreover, the delta is one of the biggest birdwatching sites worldwide. This false-colour image shows the striking contrast between dense woods, wet swamps and the blue Paraná. It combines information from the short-wavelength and near infrared as well as from the green wavelength range.

 

Location: Argentina
Picture taken on May 26, 2000
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: G/SIR/NIR

USGS/EROS; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

The Ouachita Mountains in west central USA are more than 300 million years old. Today, they are weather-beaten and noticeably  eroded. The remains that you can see in this image were once a part of a much more extensive mountain range that is believed to have spanned from Texas to Southeast Canada. The image combined information from the wavelength ranges of infrared, red and green. The complex shape of the mountains is characterised by a pattern of longish, folded formations. Between the mountain slopes, you can see water, vegetation, cities and streets.

 

Location: USA
Picture taken on November 13, 2002
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: R/G/IR

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

This image shows Yangtze River with its numerous tributaries, wiggling its way through the picture. Between the river delta on the right-hand side of the picture and the big lake, you can see the megacity of Shanghai which is partly flooded. Due to the false-colour  combination of the image, the land surface is yellowish, whereas the shades of dark red or brown indicate water.

 

Location: China, Shanghai
Picture taken on August 1, 2003
Sensor: Terra MODIS
Band combination: NIR/MIR

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

In this image you can see a glacier (blue) in Greenland calving into the sea (black). The glacier is surrounded by landmass, indicated by the red colour in the upper and the lower part of the picture. In recent years, hardly any place on earth has been more affected by climate warming than the Arctic: The ice along the edge of the giant ice cap is getting thinner and thinner, and glaciers are calving more and more rapidly. It remains to be seen if increasing snowfalls on the inner landmass can make up for the loss of frozen material at the edge of the ice cap.

 

Location: Greenland
Picture taken on September 30, 2002
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: R/NIR/SWIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

This image shows a part of the Zagros Mountains stretching across 1500 km from West to Southwest Iran where the Eurasian Plate and the Arabian Plate meet. This mountain range developed during the Alpine orogeny, the most recent and youngest mountain formation in the history of the earth. To this day, the Zagros Mountains have been growing continually.

 

Location: Iran
Picture taken on February 2, 2000
Sensor: Landsat 5, Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: G/SWIR/IR

USGS/EROS ; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

The Huang He (or Yellow River) in China is the river with the highest amount of sediment worldwide. Over time, fortified settlements and industrial facilities have been built on sediment that had been deposited in the river delta. In the middle of the nineteenth century, dams and levees were set up in order to protect the new infrastructure against floods. Since the 1970s, the river levels in the delta have been falling continually due to the increased demand for water. These two satellite images give you an idea of the modifications the delta underwent within twenty years.

 

Location: China
Pictures taken on July 2, 1979 and October 23, 1999
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: G/R/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

In comparing these two images, you get an idea of the rapid growth of Las Vegas, Nevada, between 1973 and 2002. Las Vegas is one of the fastest-growing US cities. Its high immigration rate and its areal extent have a negative effect on the water budget of this arid region. In order to solve this problem, politicians intervened: It is now forbidden to build new swimming pools, fountains must be operated using wastewater and the lawn can only be watered at certain days of the week.

 

Location: Las Vegas, USA
Pictures taken on June 10, 1973 and June 10, 2002
Sensors: Landsat 5 and Landsat 7

 

 

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

After a drought of several years, the recurrent rain returned to the region surrounding Queensland and New South Wales in 2004. Even though heavy precipitation caused large-scale flooding, infrastructural damage and the isolation of cities, the Australians were quite pleased with the situation. In this false-colour image, the turquoise-blue colour indicates the mass of water.

 

Location: Northeast Australia
Picture taken on January 18, 2004
Band combination: VIS/NIR/SWIR

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://www.nasa.gov/centers/goddard/

Approximately 80 per cent of the global water consumption can be ascribed to irrigation farming. In this false-colour image from above Kansas, red stands for healthy vegetation while farmland sticks out due to its conventional and circular irrigation. The so-called centre-pivot irrigation is common in dry areas with a large land-use management. Its characteristic shape is clearly visible from space.

 

Location: Kansas, USA
Picture taken on September 26, 2010
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: Vis/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

Heavy rainfall in Queensland, Australia, caused the flooding of Fitzroy River in January 2011. Large parts of the city of Rockhampton were flooded as well. This false-colour image highlights the contrast between the brown water of the river, which is rich in sediment, and its surroundings. The light-reflecting surfaces of the buildings and of the clouds framing this scene are pearly-white. When the floods started to retreat at the end of January 2011, it left a mixture of mud, water and destroyed infrastructure behind.

 

Location: Rockhampton, Australia
Picture taken on January 7, 2011
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: VIS/NIR

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen); Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

This image shows Mount Vesuvius, the only active volcano on the European mainland. Mount Vesuvius erupted in AD 79 and buried its surrounding areas under a blanket of ashes that was approximately 30m thick. The excavation finds from the city of Pompeii constitute a snapshot of Roman life 2000 years ago: Perfectly intact wooden items, groceries and traces of hundreds of victims of the catastrophe. Mount Vesuvius has never rested and is constantly monitored for potential signs of a new eruption. This impressive image gives an idea of what an impact an eruption of Mount Vesuvius would have on the city of Naples.

 

Location: Italy, Pompeii
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Picture taken on September 26, 2000
Band combination: Vis/ NIR

NASA/GSFC/METI/Japan Space Systems; U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team; Link: http://asterweb.jpl.nasa.gov

In the middle of this false-colour image, you can see the tongue of the Malaspina glacier. The glacier makes its way from the mountains in the north and is separated from the sea by its terminal moraine as can be seen in the lower part of the picture. Without the moraine or in the case of a sea-level rise, the glacier would come in contact with the warmer sea water and it would retreat more quickly than it does now. Satellite images and measurements on the ground show that most glaciers in Alaska are getting thinner and that only a few dozen are gaining in ice mass.

 

Location: Alaska
Picture taken on April 27, 2003
Sensor: Landsat 7 ETM+
Band combination: B/ G/ NIR

USGS; Link: http://www.usgs.gov

This image shows the two twin islands in the southern part of Hudson Bay (North and South Twin Island). In spring, the ice of Hudson Bay clears, usually leaving the south-western part, in which the two islands are located, as the last area with a closed ice sheet. Climatologists are worried about Arctic melting processes: In recent years, there have been more and more ice-free phases, signalling an increase in climate warming.

 

Location: Hudson Bay, Canada
Picture taken on February 20, 2002
Sensor: Landsat ETM+
Band combination: MIR/NIR

USGS; Link: http://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/

These four images show the region surrounding San Francisco Bay, USA, with different band combinations.
Top left in the picture, the band combination of visible and reflected infrared light results in a red depiction of vegetation and a grey depiction of urban areas. Light blue indicates sediment in the bays. Top right in the picture, the band combination of short-wave infrared highlights the different soils and rocks of the mountainous region. Bottom left in the picture, multispectral thermal bands emphasise the differences of the urban surfaces through different colouring. Bottom right in the picture, you can see how different thermal bands can visualise water temperature: Warm water is depicted in white, yellow and red; colder water is depicted in blue. In the right upper corner, you can see Suisun Bay directly feeding on the cold Sacramento River. If the water flows through San Pablo and San Francisco Bay while making its way towards the Pacific Ocean, it heats up.

 

Location: USA, San Francisco
Picture taken on March 3, 2000
Sensor: Terra ASTER
Band combination: diverse, see above 

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

This false colour image shows farms alongside the Buffalo River in the US state Minnesota. Among other things, the term “precision farming” refers to the monitoring of plant health with the help of satellite images. Due to the depiction in the infrared spectrum, the farmers are provided with a lot of information about their fields.
Yellow areas indicate cultures that have been attacked by vermin, shades of red stand for healthy vegetation and black signals that there is too much water in the ground. What is more, weeds and hail damage can be detected by means of remote sensing as well.

 

Location: Minnesota, USA

Picture taken on September 10, 2009

Sensor: Landsat 5 – TM

Band combination: G/ R/ NIR

 

 

NASA (Jesse Allen); USGS; Link: http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov

Patagonia is a mountainous region at the border between Chile and Argentina. You can see that the glacier (white) streaming from the mountains towards the foothills is interspersed with crevasses. The semicircular crest far left in the picture is pierced by three glacial rivers. The crest consists of coarse gravel, forming the terminal moraine for a long time, deposited by the ice tongue. Thus, the moraine marks the end of the glacier in former times and indicates a retreat of ice. In this false colour image, the vegetation is depicted in red.

 

Location: Patagonia, Latin America

Picture taken on May 2, 2000

Sensor: Terra ASTER

Band combination: VIS/NIR

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://visibleearth.nasa.gov

In spring, Siberia’s rivers are flooded as the ice in the southern upper reaches melts before the estuary in the north is ice-free. In this image, you can see the flooded rivers Pur (left), Taz (middle) and Yenisey (right). In the false-colour image, red signals ice and snow, white stands for clouds, black indicates water, green signals vegetation and brown indicates bare ground.

 

Location: Russia, Siberia

Picture taken on June 18, 2002

Sensor: Terra MODIS

Band combination: NIR/ MIR

 

 

NASA/GSFC; Link: http://rapidfire.sci.gsfc.nasa.gov

In this false colour image, the Susitna Glacier in Alaska seems like a river fed by its influent streams and flowing towards the valley. Due to the depiction in false colour, the vegetation in this picture is bright red, the pure surface of the ice is light blue and white, ice covered with sediment (medial and lateral moraines) is brown and water is dark blue. The dynamics of the glacier are most striking in the middle of the picture where you can see a tributary glacier pushing its ice masses sideways into the trunk glacier.

 

Location: Alaska

Picture taken on August 27, 2009

Sensor: Terra ASTER

Band combination: G/ R/ IR

 

 

NASA/GSFC (Jesse Allen, Robert Simmon)