DigitalGlobe Satellite Imagery of Fort McMurray

DigitalGlobe’s satellite imagery of the Fort McMurray wildfire, which uses “short wave infrared imagery (SWIR) to ‘cut’ through the smoke and identify the active footprint and burning hotspots” and reveals where buildings have been damaged or destroyed by the fire, can be viewed at Gizmodo and on DigitalGlobe’s own blog.

Previously: Fort McMurray Fire Roundup.

Fort McMurray Fire Roundup

Here are some links to maps and satellite imagery of the wildfire that forced the evacuation of Fort McMurray, Alberta this week.

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1. The fire is fuelled in part by abnormally high temperatures: 32°C (90°F) was reported earlier this week. The above temperature anomaly map, based on MODIS data from NASA’s Terra satellite, demonstrates how unusual these temperatures are: “The map above shows land surface temperature from April 26 to May 3, 2016, compared to the 2000–2010 average for the same one-week period. Red areas were hotter than the long-term average; blue areas were below average.”

2. NASA’s Earth Observatory is also assembling a collection of Landsat satellite images of the fire:

(Sources: 3 May, 4 May, 5 May)

3. Smoke from the fire is making it into the United States, and turning up on NOAA imagery:

4. Maclean’s and CBC News have tried to depict the size of the fire by superimposing it on other cities in Canada and elsewhere in the world; so has Kyrstyn Morochuk, whose maps have been reposted by the Huffington Post. I’m not sure who came up with it first.

Previously: Canadian Wildfire Maps.

Canadian Wildfire Maps

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Yesterday wildfires swept through Fort McMurray, Alberta, the population centre of the oil sands industry, forcing the evacuation of nearly all of its more than 60,000 residents. It therefore seems timely to point to the maps produced by the Canadian Wildland Fire Information System. There are static maps of current conditions, fire danger maps providing an index of fire risk and potential damage (see above for today’s), and various forecasts, as well as an interactive version.

1916 Frost Maps

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In 1916 frost maps that show the average dates of the last spring and first fall killing frostSlate’s Rebecca Onion sees the history of climate change, given the growth in the length of the growing season since then. (Trying to find a modern-day example for comparison; frost maps don’t appear to be updated as rigorously as, say, hardiness zone maps.) [Slate Vault]

Mapping Global Sea Surface Height

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Credit: NASA/JPL Ocean Surface Topography Team.

Jason-3 is the latest earth observation satellite tasked with measuring global sea surface height; its data will be used in weather and climate research (e.g., El Niño, climate change). Launched on January 17, it’s now in its six-month checkout phase and has produced its first complete map, which corresponds well with the map produced by the still-operational Jason-2 satellite, so that’s a good sign. [via]

A Snowstorm Revealed Through Traffic Delays

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NPR graphics editor Alyson Hurt discovered that this month’s blizzard was showing up in Google Maps as traffic delays, and whipped up a little script that took regular screencaps of Google Maps’s traffic layer. She then created an animated GIF from the screencaps. The end result (above) dramatically shows the storm sweeping across the mid-Atlantic states.

Andy Woodruff then took Hurt’s script and created an animation of an ordinary day of Boston traffic. For a “quick, crude” script it certainly seems to have potential. [via]

Lake Poopó Dries Up

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Lake Poopó has become the Aral Sea of the Andes. Thanks to drought, water diversion and mining activity, the lake—long, wide, shallow, saline and the second-largest in Bolivia—has basically dried up, as this comparison of 2013 and 2016 Landsat 8 images demonstrates. CBC NewsThe Independent.

Surface Temperatures Warmest Since 1880

According to analyses by NASA and NOAA scientists, 2015 was the warmest year on record, with average surface temperatures the highest they’ve been since 1880. The above video shows the long-term warming trend since 1880 as a five-year rolling average. The baseline average is from 1951 to 1980; orange colours are warmer than that average, blue colours cooler. (Credit: GSFC Scientific Visualization Studio.)

New Year’s Flooding in the Midwest

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These two Landsat images illustrate the extent of flooding along the Wabash and Illinois Rivers at the end of last year, as 6-10 inches of rain fell over the midwestern United States. The image from 8 December 2015, above left, shows normal water levels; the image from 1 January  2016, above right, shows the rivers in flood. Use the slider to compare the two views. Original image. [via]

Pacific Ocean Time Lapse

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Clouds swirl across the Pacific Ocean in this time lapse. The data is from Himawari-8, a Japanese weather satellite in geostationary orbit over New Guinea. Every 10 minutes, it photographs the hemisphere below it. This animation is a loop of yesterday’s images. Strong winds head from East Asia, in the upper left, toward Alaska, hidden by clouds in the upper right. Australia is in the bottom center, with the edge of the Antarctic ice sheet below it and tropic storm Ula to its right. The reflection of the sun on smooth water, called sunglint, moves east to west across the Pacific just south of the Equator. At this time of year – the Southern Hemisphere’s summer – the North Pole is never sunlit, but the South Pole always is.

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From Mapbox’s Instagram account (via).

Mapping the Thaw

Scientists have been tracking seasonal freeze-thaw patterns for 30 years. This map, produced from data collected by NASA’s Soil Moisture Active Passive satellite, “shows the freeze-thaw status of areas north of 45 degrees latitude on March 5, 2015, as spring approached. Frozen land is blue; thawed land is pink. The measurement is possible because frozen water forms crystalline structures that can be detected by satellites.” NASA Earth Observatory.

Map of Canada Changes Depiction of Arctic Sea Ice

Map of Canada

The federal government’s new map of Canada, part of the Atlas of Canada reference series, came out this week. Among the changes between it and its predecessor (which came out in 2006), one in particular is drawing attention. Ivan Semeniuk in the Globe and Mail:

Whereas the older version of the map showed only that part of the sea ice that permanently covered Arctic waters year round at that time, the new edition uses a 30-year median of September sea-ice extent from 1981 through 2010. September sea ice hit a record low in 2012 and is projected to decline further. The change means there is far more ice shown on the 2015 version of the map than on its predecessor.

The changes can be seen below: the 2006 map is on the left, the 2015 map on the right.

Differences in sea ice between 2006 and 2015 maps of Canada

Now as Semeniuk’s piece points out, neither way is wrong. But all maps have a point of view, and it’s naive to think that this change was made in a value-neutral environment: this was the result of a conscious decision. The reason for that decision—that’s what’s interesting.