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Posted on July 10th, 2018

Our Changing Landscape – The Eruption of Mount Sinabung

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 had another swing and a miss when we looked at the bloom of wildflowers in Texas, but we are hoping for better luck in July where we will check out the multiple volcanic eruptions of Mount Sinabung, Indonesia.

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.

Click on the image above to see an animation of 5-meter natural color RapidEye imagery collected over Mount Sinabung, Indonesia on January 22, 2011, March 22, 2012, June 28, 2014 and February 14, 2015. First, a few notes on image quality as in the 2011 image you can see bright blue bands, sorry, nothing we can do about that as the data is corrupt but it still gives you a view of the land. And second, you will see areas of significant cloud cover and even smoke rising from the caldera in these images, but again we did the best we could with a limited number of options in the archive. While changes in the geologic structure of the volcano are hard to detect given the persistent eruptions/smoke over the mountain, what is very apparent is the change in the surrounding landscape from forested and used heavily for agriculture in 2011 to a landscape with barren lands over much of the area in the 2015 image. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2018)

The Eruption of Mount Sinabung

Mount Sinabung is a stratovolcano located on the northern side of the Indonesian island of Sumatra – nearly equidistant from the west and east coastlines with the Pacific Ocean. Stratovolcanoes are the most common type of volcanoes on our planet and are characterized by a steep profile and periodic explosions of highly viscous lava. Mount Sinabung rises out of a relatively flat plateau – with some bounding mountains to the north – meaning that this 8,070 foot tall (2,460 meter) volcano is an iconic geologic structure that can be seen from many miles away in the surrounding landscape.

According to geologists, Mount Sinabung laid dormant for some 400 years before exploding to life again on August 29, 2010, killing at least one person and spreading ash in a 3.7-mile (6-kilometer) radius. A part of the ‘Ring of Fire’, the volcano erupted again over many months during 2013 and 2014, killing at least 16. Then again, on May 21, 2016, Mount Sinabung erupted killing at least seven this time. The most recent eruptions were extremely violent, rocking the mountain in February 2018 and then again in April 2018. With this series of multiple volcanic eruptions, the shape of Mount Sinabung surely changed – and we hope that our string of failures end with some iconic 5-meter RapidEye views of these violent alterations of its geologic profile.

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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