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Mapping and Monitoring Yellowstone’s Thermal Areas Using High-Resolution Commercial Satellite Images

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Using High-Resolution Satellite Images to Map and Monitor Yellowstone’s Thermal Areas

  • Satellite remote sensing data plays a crucial role in studying and monitoring Yellowstone National Park, particularly its famous thermal areas and geyser basins.
  • While thermal infrared instruments on satellites like ASTER and Landsat 8/9 can measure heat emitted from thermal areas, they have limited spatial resolution and cannot detect subtle changes or small thermal features.
  • High-resolution commercial satellite data, with pixels smaller than a table, enable the detection of small visible features characteristic of thermal areas, such as mineral deposits, vegetation stress, and snow-free zones.
  • These high-resolution images are essential for accurately mapping the extent of thermal areas and detecting unique features that may be missed by moderate-resolution satellite data.
  • 1. Revealing Hidden Changes in Yellowstone’s Thermal Areas

    Yellowstone’s thermal areas are known for their dynamic nature, constantly undergoing changes. Some changes are noticeable through satellite thermal infrared sensors, like the discovery of a new thermal area near Tern Lake in 2018. However, high-resolution data from airborne and commercial satellite sensors were necessary to fully understand this new thermal area’s location, extent, and birthdate.

    2. Uncovering Subtle Transformations in Thermal Areas

    Not all changes in Yellowstone’s thermal areas are easily detectable by moderate-resolution satellite images. Subtle transformations often go unnoticed, highlighting the limitations of these images. High-resolution commercial satellite data, with their fine level of detail, can reveal these subtle changes, such as variations in mineral deposits, vegetation stress, water discoloration, and even persistent open water on frozen lakes during winter.

    3. The Importance of High-Resolution Satellite Data

    High-resolution commercial satellite data play a crucial role in accurately mapping the extent of thermal areas in Yellowstone. Their ability to detect small visible features provides valuable insights into the unique characteristics of these areas. By utilizing these images, scientists can monitor changes that would otherwise go unnoticed, ensuring a comprehensive understanding of Yellowstone’s thermal landscape.

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    By harnessing the power of high-resolution satellite images, scientists and researchers continue to uncover the secrets of Yellowstone’s thermal areas. These images not only enhance our understanding of the park’s dynamic nature but also contribute to its long-term monitoring and conservation efforts.

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