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Posted on July 11th, 2023

Our Changing Landscape – 2023 California Wildflower Superbloom

In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with a time series of medium-resolution PlanetScope satellite imagery. The PlanetScope constellation dates back to 2016 and collects hundreds of millions of square kilometers of four and eight-band 3-meter imagery daily! In June, we looked at the impact climate change is having on the Native Communities of Kotzebue, Alaska. This month, we’re headed to the United States to check out a more lighthearted climate change – the California Wildflower Superbloom!

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over the Carrizo Plain on March 9, 18 and 31 and on April 6 and 25, 2023. In this series of five images, you can see the mountain slopes in the Carrizo Plain explode with colors – first are bright yellows in March, to be followed by purples, blues and reds in late April. Enjoy nature’s amazing show for you! (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2023)

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 200 microsats referred to individually as Doves. Each Dove is able to collect up to 20,000 square kilometers (sq km) per day of 3-meter (m) 4-band multispectral (i.e. blue, green, red and near-infrared [NIR]) imagery; and newly launched SuperDoves collect 8-band multispectral adding in valuable red-edge spectral data. Across the constellation, PlanetScope is archiving more than 200 million sq km of medium-resolution imagery a day, making it the go to source for daily imagery over most locations. This massive archive dates back to 2016, offering the most complete and continuous record of spatial data on the planet since the start of the constellation’s ongoing launch schedule. Collecting 3-meter multispectral imagery is the equivalent of ‘high-resolution’ multispectral data imaged by a 75-centimer (cm) satellite (as this satellite would feature 75-cm panchromatic and 3-m multispectral), making PlanetScope an extremely competitively priced option at just $2.25 per sq km. With well registered images and nearly daily collections of most locations, PlanetScope is the ideal imagery source for this current-events focused series, Our Changing Landscape.

2023 California Superbloom – Carrizo Plain

While most of the global climate ‘happenings’ are gloomy, we’re excited to share a brighter, more colorful topic with you this month – California’s 2023 Superbloom!

2023 has been one of California’s wettest winters in history. The state received record breaking amounts of rain from atmospheric rivers in the early months of the year. While there can be no doubt that there was a significant amount of damage caused by the deluge, the extra moisture has resulted in a spectacularly beautiful spring in the hillsides of the state. The rolling hills are now riots of color. Oranges, yellows, reds, blues, and purples come together to create a scintillating display of wildflowers.

A superbloom is a rare botanical event that happens in the deserts of California and Arizona. In years when flowers bloom, plants drop their seeds from these flowers onto the desert earth. These tiny, life containing capsules are sifted into the layers of desert soil, where they can survive for decades, waiting for the perfect conditions before they germinate. After a particularly wet winter, unusually large quantities of these dormant wildflower seeds simultaneously spring to life in previously baren landscapes, painting them with rich kaleidoscopes of color.

Superblooms typically occur once every 10 to 15 years, although California has had a disproportionately high number of them in recent years. Nature has a way of occasionally breaking patterns as two of the most recent superblooms occurred in 2016 and 2019, respectively.

There are lists of places visitors can travel to for the best views of the wildflower blooms. Among them is  Carrizo Plain National Park, where our photos for the month were taken. Here, adventure seekers can experience the wildflower types that lend themselves to the cascade of hues present in the superblooms, such as orange poppies, purple lupine, yellow fiddlenecks, and cobalt blue dicks.

As throngs of visitors from all over the country flock to see the stunning blossoms, it’s important to view the wildflowers responsibly. Visitors should be vigilant about staying on marked trails, taking photos OF the flowers and not IN them, leaving the flowers where they are. According to Plant Sciences Professor Valerie Eviner of University of California Davis, “each flower we crush from a selfie is a lost opportunity to rebuild the seed bank for the next superbloom.” Stepping on the blossoms damages them and prevents them from being able to reseed themselves. Tourists can help preserve the integrity of the superblooms by practicing the 7 Principles of Leave No Trace.

California’s superbloom is an unexpected gift after the torrential rains earlier this year. As always, it is our responsibility as stewards of the planet to play our part in protecting this beautiful phenomena and thus to help preserve it for future generations. If we all do our part, hopefully superblooms will continue to miraculously paint their colorful swaths over the hillsides for years to come.

And now it is time to turn our attention to the 3-meter PlanetScope archive to watch California’s landscape blossom with splendid colors!

If you would like to find out more about using 3-meter PlanetScope imagery for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.

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