Friday, December 28, 2007
For those of you interested in foolin' around with image processing and GIS mapmaking, you can also download free TerraLook software.
We've just ordered a set of images from the Upper Green River Valley area of western Wyoming; we'll let you know how this new data source works out.
SkyTruth has generated a gallery of satellite images showing what the mine site looks like now, and a series of simulations based on several versions of the mine development plan that have been published by the mining company, Northern Dynasty. A tip o' the hat to one of SkyTruth's talented volunteers, Andrew Vernon, who produced this simulation showing the most recent plan.
And another nod to Erin and Hig McKittrick for their excellent Pebble Mine website, including a blog, photo gallery, and interactive Google map of the Pebble Mine site and surrounding area. All in all, this is an outstanding example of the "ground truth" comment Paul discussed a few days ago. Expect to see a whole lot more of this in 2008!
Tuesday, December 18, 2007
Sky Truth: Information that is collected from above, with a broad vision, giving the big picture.
We at SkyTruth spend a lot of time working out how to give people an "elevated" perspective on environmental issues. Most of the time we do this by providing top-down views from satellites in space or from aircraft.
We often find the SkyTruth perspective illuminates new questions and identifies sites of interest that local environmental groups may be unaware of. Or we simply wish we had more local, first-hand knowledge contributed from folks with boots on the ground to complement and help explain our high-flying images to our global audience.
In these cases, we strive to augment our images with targeted "Ground Truth" for these sites. This may mean someone on the ground needs to go to the site with a camera and a GPS and take some pictures. Or it could mean a visit to the county courthouse to find out who owns the property, or when construction got underway.
One example is the recent work we did on habitat loss for the threatened Preble's Meadow Jumping Mouse in Colorado. In this case we identified dozens of locations where construction and development is clearly taking place - or already existed - within designated "critical habitat" areas. For each of these sites we'd like to know if the development was already there before the mouse was officially recognized as a threatened species (1998), or if it's been constructed since then, a very important distinction. Ground Truth could consist of recent and historic on-location photos, and documentation from the county on when construction permits were issued and approved. Concerned local citizens could provide this with fairly modest effort, if they know what to get and where to send it.
To harness this potential citizen-army of ground-truthers, SkyTruth is building a system to organize "help wanted" requests, publicize the needs, and collect and organize the responses. That, however, is keeping us very busy, and is a topic for another post...
Please share your thoughts and comments on how you think we should go about this.
We've also created simulations to show what proposed developments - such as gold mines and natural-gas fields - could look like if they are built:
Browse the complete list of galleries here. Once you're in a gallery, click on any pic to get a bigger version accompanied by a descriptive caption; click on "Medium" or "Large" to display even larger versions, and "Original" to download the highest-resolution version available.
Please contact us (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you'd like to use any of the pictures from our site. We typically grant permission for non-profit, educational and media use.
In partnership with Center for Native Ecosystems, SkyTruth decided to take a look at what's been happening in the "critical habitat" areas in Colorado. We overlaid those areas on the high-resolution satellite imagery in Google Earth, and found 25 places where development of some kind already existed or has since occurred within the critical habitat. The Google images are probably no more than a few years old; this example shows a new subdivision obviously under construction that is encroaching on a critical-habitat zone. It certainly looks like the mouse is losing the battle.
Google Earth users can explore this for themselves using the KMZ file we created. And all are welcome to browse our online image gallery: click on any image in the gallery to see a bigger version with a descriptive caption; then click on "Large" to see an even bigger pic.
Friday, December 14, 2007
It's not as if Colorado is unfriendly to drilling: the foot of the Plateau is busy with rigs, as is private land up on top. This area, known to geologists as the Piceance Basin, is one of the most active natural-gas plays in the nation. Check out the SkyTruth image gallery to see the scope of drilling impacts on the landscape here. Lots of satellite images showing the spread of drilling over time, and great aerial shots with more detail taken by our friends at EcoFlight.
This has been an awful two months for oil spills, starting in late October with the Pemex oil platform accident and continuing crude-oil spill in the southern Gulf of Mexico; a huge oil tanker spill in the Black Sea; the comparatively small, yet still quite damaging, Cosco Busan fuel-oil spill in San Francisco Bay; a major spill, the worst ever in South Korea, that's destroyed shellfishing grounds and coated beaches; and now, a 1-million-plus-gallon crude-oil spill by Statoil, the state oil company of Norway, in the North Sea.
Cumulatively these spills represent more than 6 million gallons of oil. What a mess. As a California state official noted, the ecological effects of these spills continues for years, even decades, long after our attention has drifted elsewhere...
Wednesday, December 12, 2007
Tuesday, December 11, 2007
We had a radar imaging satellite (named, appropriately enough, "Radarsat") take a picture as it orbited over the San Francisco Bay five days later. Defenders of Wildlife, Ocean Conservancy and San Francisco Baykeeper helped pay for the image, which showed numerous slicks in the Bay and beyond the Golden Gate. Check out our gallery and the press release from Ocean Conservancy, and this video showing why the failure to contain the spill promptly lead to a much more widespread impact.
For you Google Earth users (and there are more of you every day!), we also produced this KMZ file. The story told by the imagery is summed up well by Warner Chabot at Ocean Conservancy: "...containing the oil in the first two hours is 100 times more important than chasing it all over the San Francisco Bay for the next two weeks." Two Bay-area stations used our images in their November 20 broadcasts - CBS 5 news at noon (watch the story), and ABC 7 news at 5pm.
UPDATE 7/17/2009: The skipper of the Cosco Busan, John Cota, was just given a 10-month jail sentence for negligence leading to the illegal discharge of 53,000 gallons of oil into the Bay.
But a picture is worth a thousand words. To get a better feel for what we've done since we started up in 2001, start at our home page and take some time to check out our online image galleries.
We hope you'll check out this space regularly!