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Posted on December 1st, 2020

Our Changing Landscape – Fall Colors in the Catskill Mountains

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 4 and 5-band 3-meter imagery daily! In November we were in China at the site of a rapidly flooding dammed region, and for this edition of Our Changing Landscape we headed back to the United States with a look at the Fall colors in the Catskill Mountains of New York.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Catskill Park in the US state of New York on October 8, 14, 15 and 17, 2020. This four-date animation spans just over a week and a half, and in it you can see significant changes in the Fall leaf colors. On October 8th, the forest stand is a mix of green and yellows with a few more shades thrown in. By October 14th, the stand is dominated by yellow leaves and then by the 17th the shades deepen to purples and reds. Now a word of caution with regards to imagery and colors, it is possible for atmospheric haze to impact tones as you can see in the data from the 15th which appears to regress to the colors seen on October 8th. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2020)

The PlanetScope Microsat Constellation

PlanetScope is a constellation of more than 150 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 5-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 $1.80 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.

The Change of Fall Colors in the Catskill Mountains, New York

The Catskills are located in southeastern New York and are part of the larger Appalachian Mountain range. The Catskill Mountains are generally defined by the region within and close to the Catskill Park which is a 705,500 acre (2,855 square kilometers) New York State park. The Catskills are characterized by three general tree biomes. Moist, well-drained slopes in the region are considered northern hardwood forests, dominated by one or more tree species of American beech, sugar maple and/or yellow birch. South and west-facing slopes, which are warmer and drier, are dominated by red and white chestnut and scrub oaks as well as shagbark and bitternut hickories. The highest peaks of the Catskills are covered in red spruce and balsam fir with yellow birch to a lesser extent. If you review this list of tree species again, you will see that the Catskill Mountains are dominated by deciduous trees which lose their leaves every year in the Fall. So with this fact in mind, it was off to the internet to find the best time for fall colors in the Catskills which according this website was during mid-October. Oranges, reds and yellows are the dominate colors in the Catskills during the Fall, so now we turn to the 3-meter PlanetScope archive to see if we can capture these 2020 changes.

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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