Earth Observation Mission News
Landsat – The watchman that never sleeps
18 July 2016
In western North America, mountain pine beetles infest and ravage thousands of acres of forest lands. Landsat satellites bear witness to the onslaught in a way that neither humans nor most other satellites can.
Through continuous monitoring, Landsat satellites can produce a series of images over time that reveal subtle changes in near real time. Such monitoring is not as crucial in cases of timber harvesting or wildfire as the impact on forests is easily identified in those situations. Pine forests under siege by beetles, however, can die a slow death. Forest Service personnel indicate that noticing such trends can be difficult, depending on whether the trees under assault are just a few or number in the thousands. Although aerial photography and field observations might find some of the tree damage, the large-scale revelations really happen only because of Landsat's ability to monitor forests year after year.
Image credit: USGS -Williams Range, Colorado