Favorite satellite images of 2013

December 30 2013 by Charlie Loyd

It’s been a great year for open data and a beautiful year for satellite imagery. Just for fun, here’s a few favorites.

Confluence of the Fisher and Mellor glaciers, Antarctica. On November 11th, as the Southern Hemisphere’s summer began, Landsat 8 passed over the area of East Antarctica where the Fisher and Mellor glaciers join, forming part of the huge Lambert Glacier System — the largest in the world, although it was only mapped in the 1950s. The blue streaks are bare ice, where the wind has blown away all loose snow. Astronomers search places like those to find meteorites, lifted to the surface where the ice is forced up slopes.

Ships in Singapore Harbor. Singapore is one of the busiest container ports in the world, and there are so many cargo ships anchored around it that you can follow the currents by seeing which way they’re pointing. Many of the ships here are larger than the Titanic, and can carry as much cargo as the weight of a million people, or three hundred air-freight 747s loaded to capacity. Landsat 8 — undaunted by thick tropical haze — picked this up on June 27th.

Haiyan. On November 8th, Supertyphoon Haiyan (or Yolanda) made landfall, with recordbreaking wind speeds usually only seen in tornados. Open satellite imagery was a vital part of storm prediction as well as recovery. This MODIS image has the outline of the Philippines superimposed, since the hurricane completely covers the nation.

Fog around Santiago. Chile’s capital city is sandwiched between the huge Andes mountains to the east and lower coastal ranges to the west. In this Landsat 8 view from August 2nd, fog has crept into the valleys of the western mountains, but Santiago and the surrounding wine country is mostly clear.

The Rim Fire. In August, September, and October, one of the largest and most spectacular wildfires in California’s history burned near Yosemite. This Landsat 8 scene from August 24th shows the edge of the fire as it moved south. Like all Landsat imagery, it was available for free to the public — and firefighting agencies — within hours, allowing same-day planning.

Pavlof eruption. Sometimes the most interesting satellite images are by people. On May 18th, astronauts on the International Space Station used ordinary digital cameras to record a volcanic eruption in the Aleutian Islands, Alaska.

Rice farms north of Shanghai. The delta of China’s Yellow River has created extremely fertile farmland. In this Landsat 8 scene from August 13th, we can see the dense rice paddies of Rudong County, only two hours’ drive north of the skyscrapers of downtown Shanghai. The patterns to the east are sand islands where the river meets the Pacific.

Everything you see here is free to download and use at original size, thanks to the efforts of NASA, USGS, NOAA, and other agencies — just follow the links.

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