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Posted on January 9th, 2024

Our Changing Landscape – 2023 Hurricane Otis

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 December we took in Derna, Libya and the devasting flooding there. This month, we’re look at Hurricane Otis and its wide-reaching impact on Acapulco, Mexico.

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Acapulco, Mexico on October 23 and 27, 2023 – both images collected just days before and after Hurricane Otis. And continuing in the disturbing trend started last month with the Derna flooding, these two images really speak for themselves. When Hurricane Otis made landfall in Acapulco the destruction was just simply immense as it tore out vegetation, flattened homes and left significant flooding in its wake. While the official death toll stood at 27 when this article was drafted, it is our feeling that number is vastly underestimated. The devastation is just so stark – our thoughts are with this region as it rebuilds over the coming years. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2023)

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 240 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.

October 2023 Hurricane Otis & Its Impact On Acapulco, Mexico

Hurricane Otis made landfall on October 25, 2023 in Acapulco, Mexico as a Category 5 hurricane with sustained winds of 165 miles per hour. More than one million people around the city and in it were left with very little time to prepare due to the rapidly increasing intensity of the storm. It has been said by the National Hurricane Center that Otis is the strongest hurricane in the satellite era to make landfall in the Eastern Pacific.

Satellite imagery, captured by Maxar Technologies, revealed the devastating damage to the Pearl of the Pacific, which resulted in the loss of at least 27 lives. The images also show a high amount of damage to various hotels and buildings in the area. The number of windows destroyed by the storm is believed to be in the thousands. The majority of people were caught off-guard by the fast intensification of Otis which left behind piles of debris, downed trees, a damaged marina, and flooded roads. The National Hurricane Center reported Otis’s winds increased in strength by at least 115 miles per hour in a 24-hour period. The Mexican government deployed over 100,000 troops to the region, however, they didn’t have what was needed to tackle the downed power lines buried in mud and water, leaving residents and visitors without electricity.

The total amount of deaths caused by Hurricane Otis is inconclusive due to conflicting information, however, it is said in this report to be over one-hundred and many more missing. The devastation caused by Hurricane Otis severely impacted the region’s infrastructure, leaving residents without working telecommunication lines. Otis is the strongest storm to cause such a large amount of damage and impact since Hurricane Pauline, which occurred in 1997; leaving thousands homeless and hundreds dead.

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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