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Posted on May 2nd, 2023

Our Changing Landscape – Northern Coast of Greenland

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 April, we looked at horrific earthquake damage in Turkey. This month, we’re headed to the northern coast of Greenland to take a look at the impact climate change is having on its ice sheets.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over the northern coast of Greenland about 96 miles (155 kilometers) east of Alert, Canada on July 11, 2017 and then July 14, 2022. We picked these two cloud-free images over the same location as they were collected nearly 5 years apart (just three days off in fact), so they are excellent case studies for the impacts of climate change in this arctic region. And these images are both stunning and horrifying all at once. You can’t help but fall in love with the alien landscape but then also gasp at just how drastic the changes have been in five short years. There is both a significant retreat of the extents of the glacier featured here as well as the extent of the snowpack down to the coastal shelf. And then in the ocean itself, you can see the water is essentially melted in the 2022 image while in the 2017 image it looks to be more of an icepack still covering the ocean’s water. These are scary images that speak to the urgency we must act with to stop climate change before it’s too late. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2023)

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.

A Look at Climate Change’s Impact on Greenland’s Ice Sheets

Here at Apollo Mapping, we’ve known for a while that climate change is having massive impacts on ecosystems around the world. Today, we’re taking a more in depth look at one of the global environments that is being hit hardest by climate change, i.e. Greenland and its massive ice sheets.

Greenland is an island country situated between the Arctic and Atlantic oceans, and is a territory of the Kingdom of Denmark. Although Greenland is a large country, it has a population of just over 56,600 people, making in the least densely populated region in the world. Greenland is also home to the world’s second largest ice sheet, surpassed in size only by the Antarctic ice sheet. The massive Greenland ice sheet (GrIS) covers 1.7 million square kilometers of the surface of Greenland.

Ice sheets are a type of glacier, categorized by their size. A glacier must cover more than 50,000 square kilometers before it qualifies as an ice sheet. These massive ice deposits are formed in areas where winter snowfall doesn’t melt entirely during the summer. The snowfall piles into masses of ice, which are compacted and compounded as new snowfall continues each winter.

According to scientists, the GrIS is in grave peril due to global climate change. 2021 marked the 25th year in a row where the ice sheet lost more mass during melting season than it gained during the winter. As ocean and surface temperatures rise, the water melting off the GrIS has to go somewhere. The increased melt water has resulted in ponds and lakes appearing on the surface of the ice sheet, and water rapidly draining into the ocean through ice chutes known as moulins. If the GrIS were to melt entirely, sea levels would rise by approximately 7.4 meters (23 feet) globally.

In addition to a rise in sea levels, GrIS’ melting will have other ecological impacts. The GrIS plays a role in weather and climate by altering storm tracks, which will change as the glacier recedes. Ice sheets also contain valuable records of the Earth’s climate history. Scientists can learn about what the planet was like millions of years ago by studying ice cores collected from glaciers and the bubbles found in them.

All of this information about glaciers melting due to climate change’s impact can seem daunting. How can we, as individuals and a global community, take action to protect our planet and reverse the effects of climate change? There are many ways, big and small, that we can all chip in to help combat the problem. The United Nations has published this list of ten actions you can take to reduce your greenhouse gas emissions and help preserve a livable climate. Carbon Offsets To Alleviate Poverty (COTAP) also has a great list of ideas to reduce your carbon footprint.

Some of these actions, like walking or eating more vegetables, may seem like “small potatoes” compared to the looming issue of climate change. Every action has a reaction, though, and if enough people make small changes, the impact could be dramatic. One thing is for certain, our beautiful planet is worthy of dedicated stewardship and care, and each of us have a responsibility to help tend to it. Now it is time to turn to the 3-meter PlanetScope archive to see how it has captured these rapid changes through time.

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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