Category: Uncategorized

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.  

Historical Lick Observatory Surrounded by Wild Fire

By Elijah Mt. Castle and Mitch Burcham

The Lick Observatory operated by the University of California is slowly being encroached upon by a surrounding wildfire in the Mt. Hamilton area of California. The images below gathered by the team at Earth Observation Group of the Payne Institute for Public Policy show the extensive burn area around the observatory as well as images form a local news sources of the flames rising around the buildings. As of right now there has been no reported damage to buildings on the property but as the fire continues to rage the risk increases. Firefighters have been working around the clock to protect the 132-year-old observatory that is so valuable for university research and public education. Earth Observation Group will continue to monitor fires around the world.

Grizzly Creek and Pine Gulch Forest Fires

By Elijah Mt. Castle and Mitch Burcham

The team at Earth Observation Group had gathered this image of two extremely hazardous fires only 250 miles from The Payne Institute for Public Policy headquarters in Golden, Colorado. Our team utilized VIIRS NightFire technology to not only pinpoint fire hotspots but accurately calculate average temperatures of the flames within an area. These fires are occurring along I-70. One in Grizzly Creek near Glenwood Springs, and one in Pine Gulch near Palisade, Colorado. The latter of the two is quickly approaching the top 5 list for most destructive fires in Colorado history, having burned more than 69,000 acres already. The massive efforts to curb the burning in Pine Gulch has given time for the Grizzly Creek fire to expand approach one of Colorado’s most beloved hiking destinations, Hanging Lake. Grizzly Creek is expanding so quickly that it is now the top priory fire in the nation; leaving Colorado burdened with two massively destructive fires blazing at the same time. Massive evacuation orders have been put in place and I-70 has been closed as first responders struggle to control both forest infernos. Extremely dry conditions have made this fire season supremely active and dangerous not only for Colorado but for the entire western United States. Valuable forest is burning, air quality is decreasing, and drought continues. EOG will continue to monitor fires around the world, and we urge everyone to obey fire bans, and regional safety mandates so our land can remain beautiful and our homes can stay safe. For more information on fires like these follow us on twitter @eogatpayne.

Sustained Activiy In Antartica During COVID-19 Pandemic

By Elijah Mt. Castle and Mitch Burcham

Imagery from Earth Observation Group’s VIIRS Nighttime Light provides additional support to a recent claim by The Atlantic that operations within Antarctica have maintained steady during the global COVID-19 outbreak. This image depicts Antarctic research bases that have maintained operation even as U.S and Australian funding as decreased due to pandemic induced budget cuts. According to Leah Fieger and Mara Wilson of The Atlantic the sustained activity, seen on the map as red dots, is the result of Russian and Chinese efforts to effectively imperialize the region. While all research in Antarctica is a collaborative effort, the decrease in U.S involvement in the area has given the green light for China and Russia to stake claim in land and potential resource treasure troves. The actual outcome of this is unclear as diplomatic discussions about the region happen regularly, however those discussions cannot begin again until social distancing practices are more relaxed. Until those discussions can begin, Antarctic operations could prove to be a topic of interest in the coming months.