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Posted on September 7th, 2021

Our Changing Landscape – Flooding in Germany

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, 5 and 8-band 3-meter imagery daily! In August we checked out the site of a massive chemical plant fire in Illinois, and for the September edition of Our Changing Landscape we assess the destruction left behind by historic flooding in western Germany.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over the Erfstadt-Blessem region in western Germany on July 3 and 18, 2021. In this animation, the devastation caused by the mid-July flood is obvious as roads and farms are covered in mud and the quarry at the center of the images is filled with water which even poured over its southern edge. What is obviously harder to detect is the destruction of structures, such as homes and buildings – this is a common trend we have seen with 3-meter PlanetScope imagery. Our hearts are heavy with grief and we hope for the best for all of the residents of this devastated region. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2021)

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 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.

Historic Flooding in Erftstadt, Germany During Mid-July 2021

Erftstadt is a town of about 50,000 residents located in western Germany just outside of Cologne. The town takes its name from the 68-mile (110-kilometer) Erft river which flows into the Rhine by Düsseldorf. In mid-July, meteorologists warned residents of western Germany to expect record flooding in the region; and on July 14th, the rains came as predicted dumping more than 18 gallons (70 liters) of water on an 11 square foot (one square meter) area in just a few hours. Fueled by human-induced global climate change, the flood waters quickly filled a 197-feet (60-meter) deep quarry in the nearby town of Blessem, causing massive erosion of the sandy grounds and a significant expansion of its 99-acre (40-hectare) boundaries.

In Erftstadt, flooding from the historic rains rose quickly leading to a mandatory evacuation order and some 50 boat rescues of trapped residents. A week after the flooding in western Germany, news stories reported at least 173 lives lost in tragedy with more than 150 still missing; as well as an estimated $4.7 to $5.9 billion (4 to 5 billion Euros) in damage. The scope of the destruction across western Europe is hard to imagine so for now we turn to the 3-meter PlanetScope archive to help visualize the damage in Erftstadt and Blessem.

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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