Mapping the Russian Invasion of Ukraine: Roundup #2

Content warning: Some of these links contain disturbing images: I’ve marked them with a †.

More on the question of whether theatre maps accurately reflect the ground situation. Nathan Ruser’s maps have been used to argue that Russian forces are controlling roads rather than territory, but Ruser complains that his maps are being misinterpreted: they were never meant to show territorial control, just troop movements. See also this Twitter thread from Jennifer Cafarella, in which she explains the methodology and reasoning behind her team’s maps.

3D models of bombing damage.† Satellite imagery and 3D photogrammetric data are used to create 3D models of bombing damage in Ukraine. [Maps Mania]

A map of attacks on civilian targets with photo and video documentation. [Nataliya Gumenyuk]

Where hot spots are literally hot spots. In a Twitter thread, Sotris Valkaniotis shows how military operations in Ukraine show up in Landsat spectral imagery: weapons fire turns up as hot spots showing “very high temperature in short-wave infrared band.”

A Ukrainian map of alleged Russian casualties† and where they were deployed from. [Michael Weiss]

A map of checkpoint traffic. More than two million Ukrainians have fled the Russian invasion. Overwhelmingly, they’re fleeing westward. This map shows how busy each border checkpoint is: Polish border crossings are extremely congested. [Kyiv Independent]

Meanwhile, Kenneth Field has been working on ways to map Ukraine’s refugees. Here’s his most recent iteration:

Ukraine’s population density. More than 41 million people live in Ukraine. This map from Airwars shows the population density per square kilometre. Which shows how many people in an area are affected by a particular military strike.

Apple says Crimea is Ukrainian. Mashable: “Apple’s Maps and Weather apps now mark Crimea as part of Ukraine when accessed outside of Russia. It appears the company has quietly updated its stance on the territorial dispute.” Apple had marked Crimea as Russian in 2019, which pissed Ukraine off at the time. [TechCrunch]

Finally, this striking bit of art:

First Images from Landsat 9 Released

Landsat 9 image of the Kimberly region of Western Australia
The first image from Landsat 9, taken on 31 October 2021, is of the Kimberly region of Western Australia. (NASA/USGS)

The latest of the Landsat satellites, Landsat 9, launched on September 27. Similar to Landsat 8 with slight equipment upgrades, it will replace Landsat 7 when it is fully operational next year. Right now it’s going through its 100-day check-out, after which NASA will hand it over to the USGS. As part of that check-out, its first images were recently released. [NASA Earth Observatory]

The Mother of Landsat

Virginia Tower Northwood is sometimes called “the mother of Landsat” for her invention of the multispectral scanner that was launched aboard Landsat 1. An alumna of MIT, she is the subject of this long profile by Alice Dragoon in the MIT Technology Review, which looks her entire career, which prior to Landsat involved radar and antenna design—including, notably, the transmitter on the Surveyor 1 lunar lander. See also this profile on NASA’s Landsat Science page.

Mapping the Sulawesi Earthquake and Tsunami

The New York Times (detail)

Last week a magnitude-7.5 earthquake struck the Indonesian island of Sulawesi, triggering a tsunami that struck the city of Palu with far more force than expected. The New York Times has multiple maps and aerial images of the damaged areas; NASA Earth Observatory has before-and-after Landsat imagery.

The Changing Padma River

Padma River erosion animation
NASA Earth Observatory

Landsat observations have charted the erosion of the banks of the ever-changing Padma River, a major distributary of the Ganges in Bangladesh. This is vividly shown in this animation produced by NASA Earth Observatory, which “shows 14 false-color images of the Padma river between 1988 and 2018 taken by the Landsat 5 and 8 satellites. All of the images include a combination of shortwave infrared, near infrared, and visible light to highlight differences between land and water.” More on the erosion of the Padma River here.

Cape Town’s Disappearing Water Reservoirs

Cape Town is running out of drinking water, a crisis dramatically depicted by NASA Earth Observatory maps that show the depletion of the city’s reservoirs. The animated gif above, for example, “shows how dramatically Theewaterskloof [Cape Town’s largest reservoir] has been depleted between January 2014 and January 2018. The extent of the reservoir is shown with blue; non-water areas have been masked with gray in order to make it easier to distinguish how the reservoir has changed. Theewaterskloof was near full capacity in 2014. During the preceding year, the weather station at Cape Town airport tallied 682 millimeters (27 inches) of rain (515 mm is normal), making it one of the wettest years in decades. However, rains faltered in 2015, with just 325 mm falling. The next year, with 221 mm, was even worse. In 2017, the station recorded just 157 mm of rain.”

Google’s Cloud-Free Mosaic Gets Updated

Google’s low- and medium-resolution satellite imagery has gotten a comprehensive update with new imagery from the Landsat 8 satellite. It’s the first such update to its seamless, cloud-free mosaic in three years. The Atlantic has detailed coverage (that helpfully points out, among other things, that this doesn’t apply to the highest zoom levels: those images come from DigitalGlobe satellites and aerial photography).

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.

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]