NASA features Windsor and Chatham in first pictures from Landsat 9

·3 min read
Illustration provided by NASA of the Landsat 9 satellite passing over Earth, while moving from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. (NASA - image credit)
Illustration provided by NASA of the Landsat 9 satellite passing over Earth, while moving from the Great Lakes to the Gulf of Mexico. (NASA - image credit)

The first few pictures released from NASA's eye in the sky, Landsat 9, are focusing in on Windsor and Chatham.

Recently released pictures from the new satellite feature Lake Erie and Lake St Clair, where harmful algae blooms are making water toxic to fish, wildlife and people.

Landsat 9 project scientist Jeff Masek said the satellite is on a mission to track the impact of climate change across the globe.

"What you're looking at is a map of surface temperature," he said while looking at the satellite picture of Chatham.

"Water in Lake St. Clair.. is colder than the land in general. The arrows are pointing out some greenhouses, which of course are bright in the visible wavelengths, but there also appear very cold in the thermal infrared wavelengths.


He noted the photos can do a lot to help understand what's going on in the environment.

"Landsat 9 that is used, for example, to look at harmful algal blooms, get early detection of those algal blooms, which has been an issue, particularly in Lake Erie in the past."

Pointing to the satellite image of Windsor, Masek said, "in this image, of course, you see the agricultural patterns, the crops, the rectangular fields all over southern Ontario and Michigan. But then you also see the cities of Detroit and Windsor."

The data collected by Landsat 9 could prove to be useful to local organizations like the Great Lakes Institute for Environmental Research (GLIER) at the University of Windsor.

The institute is interested in tracking the health of large lakes such as Lake Erie and Lake St Clair.


GLIER's executive director Mike McKay said the data from Landsat 9 can become an important reference point for their project.

"More data is always good. You know, there are some, some limitations. The satellite passes over areas only once every eight days."

He said the data collected is not always useable.

"We used the Landsat satellites back in 2000 for tracking algal blooms in western Lake Erie over an entire summer and we only ended up with one image with that had cloud cover of less than 30 per cent that was usable.

"But otherwise, I mean, those are beautiful images," McKay said while looking at the pictures of Windsor and Chatham.

"The resolution is so good. I think it's 30 square meter pixels that it can it can differentiate. And when you're talking about something like Lake St. Clair and the Detroit River, that sort of resolution is really important.

"You might pass over the Ambassador Bridge and think you've got this blue river underneath that's homogeneous. But really, there's a lot of generalization that goes on and having a satellite such as Landsat that has such fine resolution might allow you to pick up phenomena in the river that are occurring in these smaller scales."

Masek said they are aware of the obstacles to taking clear pictures above Windsor.

"Windsor has a little bit of a problem. It's a very cloudy area, as you probably know. So we don't get a clear view every eight days, but we try to get views often enough so that we can at least get a clear view roughly once a month."

Masek said all the pictures collected through the Landsat program are available to the general public for free. You can download either a single image or an entire record of Windsor going back 50 years and look at the changes that have occurred.

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