Category: Uncategorized

Large Wildfires in California

By Elijah Mt. Castle

California has experienced several large wildfires over the month of August. The Dixie fire has been burning since July 13th and has grown over 910,000 acres. The Caldor fire started August 14th and has grown to over 216,000 acres. The River Complex and Monument Fire  both started on July 30th and are relatively smaller fires, 121,000 and 183,000 acres respectively. Numerous structures have been destroyed and thousands of residents have been displaced by the various fires. The Dixie Fire alone has destroyed 692 homes. The Monument Fire and River Complex were started by lightning. The other major fires are still under investigation. Dry conditions and wind have severely impacted fire suppression tactics over the month and all fires specifically listed are continuing to burn into September with some having predicted containment in October. Pictured are the VIIRS Night Fire detections for August with an associated temperature range. The darker the color in a location the longer a detection has been present. Also pictured is the VIIRS day/night band radiance for August 17th.

Space exploration and development is essential to fighting climate change 8/16/2021

Space exploration and development is essential to fighting climate change

Payne Institute Fellow Alex Gilbert writes about how the recently released Sixth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change presents a worrying scientific consensus: climate change is happening, humans are causing it, even our best efforts cannot prevent negative effects, and reducing emissions now is essential to preventing catastrophic consequences. The Biden Administration recognizes the urgency of addressing this challenge. This prioritization rightly reflects the growing capabilities of the public and private space sectors to help our society understand, adapt, and mitigate climate change.  Perhaps most importantly, growing space activities can accelerate the clean energy transition to reduce emissions by catalyzing technological development of existing and new energy technologies.  With foresight and targeted intervention, emerging space capabilities and industry can improve our climate outcomes.  August 16, 2021.

Earth Day 2021

By Elijah Mt. Castle

Earth Day is an international day of environmental protection. Started on April 22, 1970 Earth Day is now observed in over 193 countries. Earth Day was first proposed at the 1969 United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) by activist John McConnell. The event originally took place on March 21, but it was moved to April 22nd when United States Senator Gaylord Nelson suggested hosting nationwide sessions to raise environmental awareness. Earth Day is a day to celebrate conservation and peace between the nations of the world. The Paris Climate Agreement was signed on Earth Day in 2016 by over 120 countries around the world. This agreement has helped strengthen both diplomatic ties and global climate change mitigation. We here at the Earth Observation Group would like to wish you a happy Earth Day.

Multiple Wildfires in Nuevo León

By Elijah Mt. Castle

Mexico is currently facing one of its worst forest fire seasons in decades. Over 1,000 people have been evacuated in Nuevo León, Mexico alone. Drought conditions and high winds have severely hindered firefighting efforts. The La Niña weather system has caused high winds with gusts up to 90kph. These high winds have grounded helicopter fire fighting units. This year alone, fire has destroyed over 29,000 hectares(~72,000 acre) of forest nationwide, the third largest loss of forest land in a decade. There are currently 75 active wildfires across Mexico. Pictured are the VNF detections in Nuevo León for March 17th -28th 2021. Also pictured is the EOG Nighttime Lights mosaic for March 27th 2021. The more pronounced the color is on the map, the longer fire has been burning there.

Weeks Long Fire Contained in Similipal National Park

By Elijah Mt. Castle

Similipal National Park has been aflame since February 24th 2021, and is now contained according to government officials. The associated tiger sanctuary also caught fire. The park, located in Odisha India, is an important biosphere for the country. Roughly one third of the forest has been destroyed or gutted for fire breaks. Fires have also been raging in surrounding areas for weeks. There have not been any reports of loss of life because of the fire, and most of the larger animals have moved to the inner-part of the preserve to escape the fire. Smaller animals and flora were not so lucky. Many reptiles and medicinal plants were killed in the fire. The exact cause of the fire is not known, but it is speculated to be man made. Many locals will burn away dead leaves to collect seeds and flowers used in alcohol and other products. The Odisha government is currently taking volunteers and paying locals to help keep the blaze contained. Pictured are the VNF detections for February 24th – March 12th 2021 in and around Similipal. The more pronounced the color is the longer the fire has been burning at that location. Also pictured are the EOG Nighttime Lights for March 6th.

Gravity Wave over United States

By Elijah Mt. Castle

The propagation of a gravity wave has been detected in cloud cover over the Eastern United States. A gravity wave is a wave generated in a fluid by the force of gravity or buoyancy attempting to restore equilibrium in the medium, i.e. the waves are caused by the fluid attempting to return to its resting place. When fluid is displaced from its equilibrium the fluid will move back and forth producing a wave. Gravity waves are responsible for many natural phenomena: ocean waves generated by wind; tsunamis; cloud patterns; and ocean tides. Pictured is an effect of a gravity wave on cloud cover over the United States. The rippled effect in the clouds could have been caused by a variety of interactions. This is a rare event to be captured so clearly by satellites.

Hawaiian Volcano Becomes Active Once More

By Elijah Mt. Castle

The Hawaiian volcano Kīlauea has become active. Kīlauea has been erupting since December 30th 2020. All lava flows are currently in the uninhabited lava lake and pose no threat. Kīlauea last erupted in 2018, when it erupted for 3 months straight. It was believed that a volcano the size of Kīlauea would only stop erupting when it was out of magma. However, the 2018 eruption only used a third of the available magma in the chamber. It was believed the volcano would remain dormant for much longer than it has. Chemical analysis of the lava shows it is not a new production of lava, but rather the remnants of the 2018 eruption. The Hawaiian Volcano Observatory is monitoring the eruption for new information and any risk it may pose. Pictured are the VNF detections for January 29th-31st 2021 for the volcano. Also pictured is the EOG Nighttime Lights for January 31st 2021, where the volcano can clearly be seen.

Country Wide Power Outage in Pakistan

By Elijah Mt. Castle and Feng Chi, Hsu

Pakistan’s national power grid experienced a blackout lasting 18 hours in most areas. The power failure was caused by “an engineering fault” in southern Pakistan. The fault engaged safety systems across the grid and shut down the power plants across the country. The blackout left millions of people in the dark. Airports were disrupted and major cities were left in the dark. Power has since been restored. No major accidents were reported. In 2018 Pakistan’s grid was partially disrupted for more than nine hours. A major power outage also occurred in 2015 a major power line broke down which knocked out power for around 80 percent of Pakistan, allegedly the outage in 2015 was caused by rebel groups. Pictured are the EOG nighttime lights for January 8th and 9th.

Chinese Fishing Fleet Threatens Biodiversity in Galapagos

by Elijah Mt. Castle
A fishing fleet hailing from China has been forced away from the Galapagos Islands by Ecuador’s navy. In recent years Chinese fishing vessels have begun fishing for giant squid during the summer near the protected area of the Galapagos islands. This year’s fleet was the largest on record, according to Rear Admiral Daniel Ginez, the Ecuadorian Commander of Naval Operations. The Galapagos islands are best known for Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution and host a diverse biosphere of species, some of which are endangered. While not entering Ecuador’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), the fishing vessels threaten the species who crossed outside of the protected zone of the islands. The vessels have since moved to the edge of Peru’s EEZ, and are continuing to fish. It was reported that some of the vessels turned off satellite communications, which is in violation of fishing protocols. The Chinese government has promised to crack down on illegal fishing near the Galapagos. The map shows movement of heavily lit fishing vessel fleet movements by month from 2019 August to 2020 August.

Colorado School of Mines ranked among nation’s elite energy universities 9/29/2020

Colorado School of Mines ranked among nation’s elite energy universities

Colorado School of Mines has been named one of the elite energy universities in the nation by the American Energy Society (AES).  The report, Top Energy Universities 2020, recognized Mines for “excellence in all fields, from fossil to sustainable materials and renewable energy” and its “small but mighty programs.”  September 29, 2020.