The Lodos winds and the Sahara

Dust from the Sahara Desert sweeps over the Mediterranean sea and into Turkey.

On February 1st 2015 Western Turkey and Greece experienced something quiet surreal, a strong south-westerly wind that was so strong that it produced large waves, damaged buildings and had many flights grounded in both countries. This wind which the local Turks call Lodos, literary meaning “southern wind” is a common occurrence and can happen as many as twenty times a year, sometimes with debilitating results.

Although it produces a great deal of turbulent waters in the Mediterranean and even in parts of the Black Sea it on occasion picks up dust from the Sahara desert in Africa. This dust is often carried as far north as Southern Ukraine and is very mineral rich. Although the minerals have been stated to be very beneficial to plant life in the area, prolonged exposure to humans can cause headaches, bronchitis and other respiratory diseases. At its hight the dust cloud can cripple urban centres as visibility drops to near blinding and all major transport is halted, this includes planes, trains, cars and even sea vessels. At times the Bosphorus Strait is even closed off till the winds and dust subside.

The below images captured by the MODIS instrument on board the Aqua satellite showing the extent of the dust stretching across the Mediterranean Sea and over Greece and Turkey.

The dust cloud can be clearly seen here over the Mediterranean Sea. Image courtesy of NASA.


The dust cloud highlighted in shades of orange. Image courtesy of NASA.

More images of the event can be seen on NASA’s Worldview website here.

If you would like to know more about Scantherma’s remote sensing services you can drop by our Perth office where one of our technicians will be glad to assist, or alternatively you can visit the remote sensing section of our website here.

Digital Globe’s Worldview 3 Launched

Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 multi-spectral Earth observation satellite was successfully launched on board a United Launch Alliance Atlas 5 rocket on August 13th. Taking off from Vandenberg Air Force Base in California the Atlas 5 rocket carried the nearly 3 tonne satellite into a polar sun-synchronous orbit at about 629 kilometres above the Earth’s surface.

Launch of Atlas AV-014 ICO G1

Digital Globe’s WorldView-3 blasting off on board the Atlas 5-401 rocket.

It’s the 10th of 15 launches planned by United Launch Alliance for 2014, and quite an exciting one at that as Worldview-3 is the first satellite to provide high-res multi-spectral imagery for commercial use and is designed to be operational for a minimum of 7.5 years.


Video of the Atlas 5 launch.

Earlier this year the US Department of Commerce approved a request by Digital Globe to make its ultra-sharp 25cm resolution imagery available for commercial use. Something that was previously only available to the US government and military. This new policy enables Digital Globe to provide 46cm resolution imagery immediately from its satellites currently in orbit, the GeoEye-1 and WorldView-2 satellites. The policy was however accompanied with a requirement, that Digital Globe is to wait until six months after WorldView-3 is fully operational before it can start offering the satellite’s 30cm resolution imagery to commercial costumers.

If you would like more information on the WorldView-3 satellite please follow the links below.

Scantherma_Icon_PNG                 Our WorldView-3 blog

Ball            Ball Aerospace & Technologies Corp

ULA logo     United Launch Alliance




Digital Globe’s World-View 3

WorldView-3 prepared and ready for launch

Ball Aerospace’s WorldView-3 satellite has arrived at the Vandenberg Air Force Base ready for launch. It has gone through and passed a full suite of environmental, functional and performance tests in preparation for integration with the launch vehicle, an Atlas 5  Rocket, along with thorough pre-ship reviews by Ball Aerospace and DigitalGlobe. Slated for launch in mid August 2014 it will settle to a final orbital altitude of 617 km above the Earth. It’s the newest of Digital Globe’s orbital remote sensing platforms and the youngest in the WorldView family after WorldView 1 and 2.

The Atlas 5 Launch platform (rocket) ready for take off.

Combined Technologies

There is much excitement surrounding this launch as WorldView-3 has a few new tools in it’s belt.  Ball Aerospace have combined the knowledge and technologies gained through the development and successful launch of  WorldView -1 and -2, QuickBird, QuikSCAT, ICESat, CloudSat, NPP, and Radarsat to develop this new platform. It will be the first multi-payload, super-spectral, high-resolution commercial satellite for earth observations and advanced geospatial data.

WorldView-3 will be collecting imagery at 31 cm panchromatic resolution, 1.24m multi-spectral resolution, 3.7m short-wave infrared (SWIR) resolution, and 30m CAVIS resolution. All this would not be possible if not for the 1.1m aperature telescope (built by Exelis) that allows it resolutions not achievable by smaller satellites.

Worldview-3 satellite pre-launch diagnostics and tests at Ball Aerospace and Technologies Corp lab


 Great news for Remote Sensing

Up until recently Digital Globe was only licensed to sell imagery of less than 50 cm panchromatic, 2.0m multi-spectral, or 7.5 meter SWIR resolution to the US Military. Now it has been permitted to provide images of up to 25cm (panchromatic) and 1.0m (multi-spectral) to all its customers. Image resolution and clarity that has not been seen before in the commercial market. This high resolution satellite imagery will be available approximately six months after WorldView 3 becomes operational.

If you would like to know more about satellite imagery and Scantherma’s remote sensing services please visit our remote sensing page or drop in to our Perth office during business hours.




Landsat Satellites catch deforestation red handed

Illegal deforestation can no longer remain hidden

The World’s forests are shrinking at an alarming and uncontrollable rate. There are of course a wide rage of causes ranging from cleared land for farming and ranching to mining and timber cultivation. Many of these take place within the some times thin and dotted boundaries of local and international law, but there are so many that slip past and go unseen. Thanks to the ever advancing technology of remote sensing these areas of illegal deforestation are slowly emerging out of the fog of corruption and ignorance.

Below images show a section of the Amazon forest near Tamshiyacu in Peru being illegally cleared for Palm Oil plantation. Many areas of the Amazon basin are completely cleared each year to make room for Palm, Soya and other plantations destroying entire ecosystems and endangering the survival of many plant and animal species, some of which have not yet been formally discovered.

The Palm trees planted are by no means a viable replacement for the natural habitat lost to hundreds of species and after cultivation Soya plantations just expand having depleted all the nutrients in the ground making the land completely useless. There are ways to make the land fertile again after the plantations have moved on but at great costs.



Tamshiyacu Peru showing the Amazon River on the left of the image. Landsat Image acquired October 5, 2012.


The same area as above showing the massive deforested area to the right. This area has been cleared to make way for an Oil Palm plantation. Landsat Image acquired August 28, 2013.

The Palm Oil industry has already left a great scar on the face of some of Earths most important and diverse rain-forests in Malaysia and Indonesia. Now the Palm Oil boom has started in Brazil and with carefully controlled sustainable cultivation it can greatly benefit the local industry and people as it should. If planted on the degraded pasture land that is becoming increasingly plentiful, oil palm could generate more jobs and higher incomes for locals than the dominant form of land use in the region: low intensity cattle ranching. Rather than destroying more rain-forest for more cattle pasture, local farmers could go into the oil palm business and benefit from its higher returns.

In the end education is key. Teaching the local peoples of affected countries how best to utilize the resources of their lands to prosper and advance, at the same time safe keeping it for future generations.

To find out more about Scantherma’s remote sensing services and how it can help your project please go here.

Landsat 5 to be decommissioned

Landsat 5, the only fully-operational Landsat satellite currently in orbit, due to the failure of Landsat 6 to reach orbit and the Scan-Line Corrector failure on Landsat 7 in 2003, is due to be decommissioned after orbiting the planet over 150,000 times and acquiring over 2.5 million images. The satellite was launched in 1984 and was designed to operate for only 3 years. It has significantly exceeded its designed life span and has been in orbit for over 29 years.


An artist’s impression of the landsat 5 satellite.

Landsat 8 Sensors

Landsat 8 launched in February will orbit the Earth fourteen times a day, following the same sequence of ground tracks as Landsat 4, 5 and 7. This allows data to be produced in the same WRS-2 path and row grid system, but collecting 150 more scenes per day than Landsat 7. This greatly increases the possibility of obtaining cloud-free satellite imagery. Although it has been built around a design life of 5 years, it was launched with enough fuel to keep it in orbit and operational for over 10 years. The Landsat satellite has 2 main imaging systems on board. The Thermal Infrared Sensor (TIRS)  and the Operational Land Imager (OLI).

The failure of the Scan-Line Corrector on Landsat 7 has driven the change from a whiskbroom to a pushbroom sensor for the OLI (image 1)on Landsat8. This brings it into line with most other modern satellite systems. Besides this major design change, the other specifications of the OLI are very similar to the Landsat TM and ETM+ sensors.

Imagery will be collected at a resolution of 30m for multispectral data and 15m for panchromatic data with a swath width of 185km. It will include all spectral bands used by Landsat TM and ETM+ along with two extra bands. One is a shorter wavelength blue band designed for aerosol remote sensing and monitoring coastal water quality. The other is a SWIR band designed for monitoring cirrus clouds.

The TIRS instrument (image 2) has also remained similar to its predecessors on Landsat TM and ETM+. The only upgrade being that now the single thermal band is split in two providing measurements at a spatial resolution of 100m.

Image1: The OLI Instrument:  To help calibrate the system the left hand opening will be aligned with the Earth and the right with the Sun.

Image1: The OLI Instrument:
To help calibrate the system the left hand opening will be aligned with the Earth and the right with the Sun.


Image2: Landsat 8 TIRS:   (Thermal Infrared Sensor) Instrument. The second of Landsat 8's two sensors.

Image2: Landsat 8 TIRS:

(Thermal Infrared Sensor) Instrument. The second of Landsat 8’s two sensors.

Image 3:  Landsat 8 at Orbital Science Corp.

Image 3:
Landsat 8 at Orbital Science Corp.

Image 4:  Landsat 8 Imagery is taken at different wavelengths and then combined to give the final image. Different terrain features can be seen based on the combination of the different colour layers.

Image 4:
Landsat 8 Imagery is taken at different wavelengths and then combined to give the final image. Different terrain features can be seen based on the combination of the different colour layers.

First Landsat 8 Images

The first images taken by NASA’s LDCM or Landsat 8 satellite have started coming through.

NASA has also updated their LDCM website with a lot of technical data about the satellite and its mission, including the below quote:

 “But the work is only beginning for validating the data quality and getting ready for normal mission operations. These images were processed using pre-launch settings, which must be checked and adjusted now that LDCM is in orbit to ensure that the data accurately measure the intensity of reflected and emitted light received by the instruments. The mission operations team also needs to ensure that each pixel is accurately located on Earth’s surface. LDCM’s normal operations are scheduled to begin in late May when the instruments have been calibrated and the spacecraft has been fully checked out. At that time, NASA will hand over control of the satellite to the USGS, which will operate the satellite throughout its planned five-year mission life. The satellite will be renamed Landsat 8, and data from OLI and TIRS will be processed and added to the Landsat Data Archive at the Earth Resources Observation and Science Center in South Dakota, where it will be distributed for free over the Internet.”

There’s more information at NASA’s LDCM site:


One of the first images taken by the Landsat Data Continuity Mission satellite. Image courtesy of NASA

Landsat Data Continuity Mission Launched

On February 11th 2013 the Landsat Earth Observation Mission was extended with the launch of the Landsat Continuity Mission on an Atlas V rocket. Once the satellite is in position and operational it will be renamed to Landsat 8. It will be the seventh satellite in the “Landsat” series which started with Landsat 7 (Originally called Earth Resources Technology Satellite)  launched in 1972.

Landsat has made contributions to the scientific community commercial sectors in a range of ways that include agriculture, ecology, water resources, natural hazards, deforestation, spread of disease,  web-mapping and many others.

Aside from all the scientific applications Landsat data has, it has also led to the discovery of  hidden archaeological sites, new lands, features and even species on the Earth’s surface. For example a never before recorded reef was discovered in the Indian Ocean and an island off the coast of Labrador, Canada. In tribute to it’s discoverer, the island was named Landsat island.


Atlas V rocket lifting off with the Landsat_Data_Continuity_Mission (Landsat 8) satellite on board.

Landsat 8 satellite sitting inside its protective housing that will be mounted atop the Atlas V rocket.

Landsat 8 satellite sitting inside its protective housing that will be mounted atop the Atlas V rocket.