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Posted on September 4th, 2018

Our Changing Landscape – Mount Ontake, Japan

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. Last month we checked out rapidly shrinking glaciers in the northwest of the United States, and for the September Our Changing Landscape we travel around the world to check out changes to a recently active volcano in Japan, Mount Ontake.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over Mount Ontake on September 29, 2013, October 19, 2014 and October 15, 2016. First, we apologize for the 2014 image as given the very bright smoke plume over the caldera, it was impossible to brighten up the surrounding area so it is quite a dark image. In the three images you will see two major changes – first a significant reduction in tree cover from 2013 to 2016; and second, some small changes to the caldera and surrounding geology. Admittedly, we expected to see more significant changes in the shape of the caldera! (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2018)

The RapidEye Constellation

RapidEye is a constellation of five 5-meter 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 Eruption of Mount Ontake, Japan

As you might have seen in another article, the author (Brock) of this monthly piece has a broken wing! So these next few editions will be short but sweet. Without further ado, let’s jump into this article. Mount Ontake is the second tallest volcano in Japan rising some 10,062 feet (3,067 meter) above sea level. Centrally located on Japan’s biggest island, the active volcano is about 125 miles (200 kilometers) west of Tokyo. Situated in a relatively rural part of the island Honshu, Mount Ontake was thought to be dormant until it awoke in October 1979 with a series of explosions. On September 27, 2014, the volcano spewed out jets of scorching steam without notice, killing at least 63 hikers and local residents. Scientists believe the eruption was caused by a super-heated steam circulating below Mount Ontake. Whatever caused the deadly tragedy, it is time now to check out the 5-meter RapidEye archive to see what changes the 2014 eruption might have caused to the Japanese volcano.

If you would like to find out more about using RapidEye for your academic studies, engineering projects or any landscape analysis, let us know at or (303) 993-3863.


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