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Posted on April 4th, 2023

Our Changing Landscape – February 2023 Syria-Turkey Earthquake

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 March, we looked at the impact of California’s atmospheric rivers on local reservoirs. This month, we’re headed to Turkey to talk about the horrific earthquake that occurred there in February.

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 $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.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Osmaniye, Turkey on February 2, 7 and 10, 2023. Given the shear destruction leveled by the February 6th earthquake and following shockwaves, we had expected to detect more damage in the before and after images, but in the end the damage is not easily detected. If you look at the red rooves in the southern side of the city, you will see some of them appear a bit less vibrant and lose a few colored pixels, we assume these are buildings that tragically collapsed. And then the colored specks in the images are known as flares and are caused by bright reflections off highly-reflective surfaces. Our thoughts are with both the Syrian and Turkish communities impacted by this tragedy as they work to rebuild their lives and livelihoods. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2023)

The 2023 Turkey-Syria Mega-Earthquake

On February 6, 2023, a monumental earthquake struck Turkey and Syria. The initial earthquake had a magnitude of at least 7.8, and was followed by more than 2,100 aftershocks. The earthquake was so strong that it opened two fissures in the earth’s crust near the Turkish-Syrian border.

The impact of the earthquakes has been catastrophic. More than 36,000 people have been killed and tens of thousands more have been injured. United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres stated, “We haven’t yet seen the full extent of the damage and of the humanitarian crisis unfolding before our eyes.” The World Health Organization suggests up to 23 million people could be impacted by the natural disaster. The USGS’ Prompt Assessment of Global Earthquakes for Response (PAGER) service estimated a 35% probability of economic losses between US$10 billion and US$100 billion. 

As of February 13th, rescue operations in Syria are over and relief efforts have been difficult because of a long-running civil war. In Turkey, rescue efforts are still being made, with some truly incredible success stories. A 13-year-old boy who was trapped for 182 hours and young girl was who survived 178 hours – an incredible 7 and a half days – under the rubble were rescued on Monday, February 13, 2023. Hopes of finding people alive are dwindling as time ticks on past the original earthquake and the cold winter weather continues to grip the area.

In the city of Osmaniye, Turkey, where our 3-meter PlanetScope images of the month were taken, two French civil security teams arrived shortly after the onset of the quake to help search for survivors. The teams used sniffer dogs to help search for people who were missing under the rubble. Aid to the area has been elusive, nearly a week after the tragedy, many are still sleeping in tents or other makeshift structures. Suddenly displaced in the bitter cold of winter, the residents of Osmaniye are desperate for tents, food and heaters.

These earthquakes are listed as the sixth most deadly natural disaster of the century, behind the 2005 quake that killed over 73,000 in Pakistan. Turkey is a country that has a high earthquake risk because it lies on not one, but two major fault lines: the North Anatolian fault and the East Anatolian fault. It is thought that this earthquake struck along the East Anatolian fault line. The grisly death toll from this quake can be accounted for by several factors: the magnitude and scope of the quake itself, the fact that it struck only 11 miles from the surface, and its proximity to inhabited areas.

The Turkey-Syria mega-quake has opened up an opportunity for incredibly generous acts of philanthropy. One anonymous U.S. resident from Pakistan donated $30 million to help those affected by the quake. If you feel compelled to donate and help the earthquake relief efforts, please check out the list of organizations working to help those impacted here.

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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