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Posted on October 3rd, 2023

Our Changing Landscape – Devon Island, Baffin Bay, Canada

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 September, we looked at devastating flooding in Assam, India. This month, we’re traveling to Devon Island in Baffin Bay, Canada to look at glacier melt that’s occurring as a result of global climate change.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over a coastal portion of south-central Devon Island, Canada on July 19, 2017 and then six years exactly later on July 19, 2023. In this animation, you can see drastic changes both on land and in the near coastal waters. To start, check out the glacier at the center of the animation and you can see significantly more summer melting in the 2023 image than in the 2017 image. And then you can see the same thawing happening in the areas surrounding the central glacier. Finally, check out the waters right near the island, in the 2017 image there is ice floating in the water; but in the 2023 image the vast majority of this ice is gone. Scary stuff folks and that is just over a six-year time period… (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2023)

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 240 microsats (as of January 2022) 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.

Steamy Arctic Summers

The Arctic region, known for its frozen tundras and icy seas, undergone drastic changes in recent years due to climate change. For the past few decades, reports have highlighted the continuous decline of the Arctic Sea ice extents.

Artic Sea ice extents are critical for the health of the environment in many ways. It acts as habitat for various wildlife species, including narwhals and walruses. Many of these animal species are endangered and the sea ice decline poses a threat to their survival. Sea ice also helps keep ocean temperatures low, as the bright ice reflects more sunlight back into space than does dark ocean. Diminishing sea ice additionally affects the livelihoods of indigenous communities who rely on the ice for hunting and transportation. To learn more about how sea ice melt is affecting indigenous communities, check out the previous article we wrote about the Village of Kotzebue, Alaska.

The warming trend during the summers is particularly concerning, as it accelerates the rate at which the sea ice is melting. According to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC), this past July, the Arctic Sea ice extent declined at a rate of over 31,000 square miles per day. Although it was projected in the past that we would have until about 2050 before the Arctic became ice-free in the summers, new models project, worst case scenario, that arctic summers may be ice-free as early as the 2030s. Since satellite records began in 1979, summer sea ice in the Arctic has declined by nearly 13% each decade.

Our 3-m PlanetScope images this month show Devon Island in Baffin Bay, off the coast of Canada. It is the largest uninhabited island in the world. The images give a stark reality to how much the Arctic sea ice extent has changed, even during the few years between these photos.

The effects of a warm Arctic summer are manifesting in devastating ways. The ice melt, so apparent in these images of Devon Island, serves as a stark reminder of the climate crisis. As the planet continues to warm, concerted efforts must be made to mitigate the impacts of climate change and preserve delicate ecosystems like the Arctic for future generations. And now it is time to turn our attention to the 3-m PlanetScope archive to see how snow pack cover on Devon Island has changed in recent years.

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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