Posted on March 1st, 2022

Our Changing Landscape – The Marshall Fire

Click on the image above to see an animation of 3-meter natural color PlanetScope imagery collected over Boulder County, Colorado on December 28, 2021 and January 17, 2022. While we would have preferred to feature a post-Marshall Fire from earlier in January, unfortunately these images were either all covered in clouds or there was thick snow obscuring a view of the ground. But even in this image taken a few weeks after the fire, you can see significant burn damage in the open areas to the northwest; you can see whole communities of homes burnt to the ground; and perhaps the most stark damage is in the south central by the highway where a shopping complex was devastated. Knowing the residents of Boulder and surrounding areas, even with this level of destruction our community will rebuild to be stronger and more resilient than ever. (Images Courtesy: © Planet 2022)

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! Last month we checked out a tragic tornado that devastated a community in western Kentucky, and for the March edition of Our Changing Landscape we head to the birthplace of Apollo Mapping with a look at the December Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado.

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.

The 2021 Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado

What happened the morning of December 30th in Boulder County was certainly exacerbated by, if not completely the result of global climate change. The snowy season typically starts in late October to early November along the Front Range (at least recently it has in the past), but as of December 27th there had only been one snow accumulation of the season which is/was extremely rare. While no one knows the exact cause of the Marshall Fire, it’s raging flames spread across the Boulder County landscape so quickly given the near-hurricane strength wind gusts on the 30th and the extremely dry conditions – factors most certainly tied in part to climate change. In the end, a well-executed evacuation of threatened communities saved nearly every resident’s life yet some 1,000 homes were lost in the Marshall Fire and local open lands were devastated. While even one life lost in the Marshall Fire is one too many, we are thankful that most lives were spared as we can and will rebuild from this tragic event. Now it is time to turn to the 3-meter PlanetScope archive to assess the extent of the damage caused by the 2021 Marshall Fire in Boulder County, Colorado.

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 [email protected] or (303) 993-3863.

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