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 January, we looked at Hurricane Otis and its devastating impact on Acapulco, Mexico. This month, we’re headed to Montixelvo, Spain to check out the damage caused by the far-reaching November wildfire there.
The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation
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.
November 2023 Wildfire & Its Impact on Montixelvo, Spain
A forest fire raged out of control for five days in November 2023 in the Montixelvo region of Valencia and destroyed almost 2,000 hectares (almost 500 acres) of crop ground and mountains spanning 12 municipalities. Upwards of 950 people in surrounding villages were evacuated as a preventative measure. Gusty winds in the southern interior of Valencia and the ongoing drought complicated matters.
As of November 2, 2023, investigators found the remains of what appears to be a bonfire consisting of four or five small logs not far from the Montitxelvo municipal sports center, a ravine, olive fields and groves of mandarin trees that surround the town. Officials surmised that farmers might have started the fire to burn brush. Once the weather cooperated and blustery winds subsided, firefighters were able to employ aerial resources to fight the wildfire from above. Coupled with heavy machinery and 300 people on the ground working to battle the blaze, the wildfire was mostly extinguished within five days. While risking their safety to save others, two firefighters were injured – one sustained an eye injury while another’s face and hands were cut up.
Satellite imagery captured by Sentinel-2 shows how widespread and damaging the wildfire’s path was. The image, acquired November 6th, reveals the burn scar, which stands out considerably from the surrounding green area unaffected by the wildfire. The Copernicus Emergency Management Service Rapid Mapping component was activated for the wildfire; and so monitoring by medium-resolution Copernicus contributing satellites helped local authorities delineate the burnt areas and assess the effects of the wildfire.
According to the European Forest Fire Information System, Spain is the continent’s worst-hit country. For example, in 2022, nearly 500 blazes destroyed more than 300,000 hectares. Science X Daily noted that climate change amplifies the drought-like conditions that create ideal conditions for wildfires to not only spark but also rapidly spread out-of-control, causing even more environmental damage.
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