In this monthly feature, we span the globe to examine Our Changing Landscape with a time series of medium resolution RapidEye satellite imagery. The RapidEye archive dates back to late 2008 and already contains more than 14 billion square kilometers of data. For December, we checked out the destruction left behind after a major hurricane hit the Florida coast here in the USA, and for the January edition of Our Changing Landscape we check out changes on Mount Everest over a single year.
The RapidEye Constellation
RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter (m) medium resolution satellites each offering five spectral bands of information. The RapidEye constellation offers daily revisits to every location on the planet with a huge footprint that is 77-km wide. The data is priced competitively with a starting cost of $1.28 per square kilometer for all five spectral bands – academics do receive discounts. RapidEye adds a fifth band, the red edge, to the ‘traditional’ multispectral set of blue, green, red and near-infrared (NIR). The additional spectral data in the red edge band allows users to extract more useful land ‘information’ than can be from traditional 4-band imagery sources. When RapidEye imagery is ordered as a Level 3A Orthorectified product, images from multiple dates are extremely well registered, making it the ideal data source for Our Changing Landscape.
The Four Seasons on Mount Everest
With its peak straddling the border of China and Nepal, Mount Everest towers over our planet as the world’s tallest mountain (when measured from sea level), standing proudly at a height of 29,035 feet (8,850 meters). As you might imagine the towering height of Mount Everest means the weather conditions on the slopes are treacherous – with summer temperatures reaching an average of 56 degrees Fahrenheit (13.3 degrees Celsius) during the day while winter temperatures peak at just 24 degrees Fahrenheit (-4.4 degrees Celsius). The summer months on Mount Everest are also the snowiest with average precipitation peaking at 5.3 inches (135 millimeters) during August. When considered together, the typical weather patterns on Mount Everest allow for two very narrow climbing seasons, one in October and one in late May to early June. Despite knowing when it’s the safest to climb Everest, human tragedies are common, not to mention the dire environmental consequences of these climbs.
Mount Everest is a part of the Himalayan Mountain range. The Himalayas are characterized by bands of flora and fauna that change as elevation increases. At the base of most of mountains in the range are tropical and subtropical forests with lush green understories and canopies often dominated by oaks and maples. As you move up in elevation, the lush broadleaf forests give way to those dominated by evergreens such as pines, hemlocks, spruce and firs. Above the tree line, you will still find a diverse community of mountain grasses and shrubs. With all of these changing biomes and the changing weather patterns, it will be interesting to see what the 5-meter RapidEye archive shows over a single year on and around Mount Everest.
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