Category Archives: Photography

Satellite snaps record high Texas floodwaters


Two photographs taken three years apart give a sense of scale of the epochal floodwaters now inundating Texas riverine flood plains.

The images, via NASA’s Earth Observatory,  capture the Brazos River, which ahs taken at least six lives since the flood began, and they reflect conditions near Monaville, a town roughly 45 miles west of Houston.

The first image, taken 4 May 2013 reflects conditions typical for this time of year:

BLOG Flood 2015

The second was captured last Saturday [28 May] and waters have risen even higher since:

BLOG Flood 2016

More from NASA:

Just six weeks after being drenched by record-setting rainfall, much of Texas has been inundated again by a seemingly endless stream of slow-moving thunderstorm systems. Water levels on the Brazos River, near Houston, crested higher than they have in more than a century. The Texas governor declared states of emergency in 31 counties by June 1, 2016.

The Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired these images of southeastern Texas on May 28, 2016 (top) and May 4, 2013 (second image). The top image shows flooding along the Brazos River just west of Monaville, while the second image shows the river when it was well within its banks. In 2014, the river nearly ran dry in places due to drought. The images below from the same days show the wider scale of the flooding.

On June 2, 2016, the Brazos River rose to 54.81 feet, according to gauges near Richmond, Texas. (The previous record was 50.30 feet on October 21, 1994.) Downstream at Rosharon, the river reached 51.97 feet; anything above 51.3 feet is considered major flooding at that point. Forecasters expect water levels to remain high for up to three weeks because more storms are predicted for early June and because swollen reservoirs upstream will need to release water.

According to news reports, at least six people have died and hundreds have been evacuated by boat from flooded homes. Hundreds (perhaps thousands) of buildings and homes have been damaged, and many roads have been closed.

The intense rainfall capped off the wettest month in Texas history, with a state average of 7.54 inches. The previous record was 6.66 inches in 2004. According to news sources, Texas was doused with more than 35 trillion gallons of rain in the month. Meteorologists attribute the wet spring to lingering effects of El Niño and to kinks in the jet stream that have slowed down weather systems while drawing in moisture from the warm Gulf of Mexico. Houston has received 24.84 inches of rain since March 1; the norm is 11.64 inches.

More from ABC News:

The Brazos River at Richmond has crested at a historic level at 55 feet, more than five feet about the previous record set in 1994. The river is so overcapacity that it is spilling into typically untouched areas, according to the Fort Bend County Office of Emergency Management. It will remain in major flood stage through the weekend.

More than 1,400 homes have been affected by the flooded Brazos River. The Fort Bend County Sheriff’s Office is urging residents not to return to their homes. Four hundred and fifty-four rescues have taken place in the area so far.

Six people died from floods along the Brazos River after four days of heavy rain over the weekend, The Associated Press reported.

Five of the dead were Army infantry troops swept away on a tributary of the Brazos. CNN reports:

Fort Hood commanders were closing some roads on the Army base in Texas at the time floodwaters overturned a truck on a training mission, killing at least five soldiers and leaving four more missing, Christopher Haug, spokesman for the post, said Friday.

But Haug said the troops learning to operate the Light Medium Tactical Vehicle were not sent out in conditions too dangerous for training.

“It was a situation where the rain had come and the water was rising quickly,” he said. “They regularly pass through these weather conditions like this. This was a tactical vehicle, and at the time they were in proper place. Just an unfortunate accident that occurred quickly.”

The Army — with help from civilian agencies — is using ground, air and dog teams in the search for the missing soldiers, who were swept away by the rising waters of Owl Creek.

And it’s not just Texas that’s flooding

Europe is experiencing similar conditions.

From BBC News:

The River Seine in Paris is at its highest level for more than 30 years, with floods forcing closed parts of the metro systems and major landmarks.

The Louvre and Orsay museums were shut while staff moved artworks to safety as flood levels climbed above 6m (18ft).

The Seine is set to reach as high as 6.5m and unlikely to recede over the weekend, with more downpours forecast.

At least 15 people have died across central Europe as heavy rainfall caused flooding from France to Ukraine.

While two people died in France, 10 were killed in southern Germany as several towns were devastated.

And now for something completely different. . .


Believe it or not, esnl was something of a geek in his younger years [yah, we know, it’s obvious].

We fell in love with film very early, because we were going to movie theaters before we ever had a television at home. We’d either sit very close to the screen or up in the balcony [the latter if it was a horror film, the former for cowboy flicks, then a staple of Saturday matinees at the Plaza Theater in Abilene, Kansas].

We were six when we got our first TV, but it was always film that was our first choice.

We were in high school when we became conscious of directors, in part because one of the greatest, Alfred Hitchcock, had a weekly crime series on the tube.

But the first director to compel out attention was the great Stanley Kubrick, who shot movies the way we would shoot still photographs — understandable, we later learned, because he was also a passionate still photographer, with an incomparable eye for composition.

Four films he made during the 1960s would revolutionize our experience of film, starting with 1960’s Spartacus, a film that played a central role in last year’s Oscar-grabbing Trumbo [which, strangely, neglected any role for a Kubrick character].

We were a passionate student of Roman history, and Spartacus brought to live an era and people we had studied in our high school Latin class. And for its time, the film was a true spectacular.

The following year came Lolita, and then in 1964 came the film that changed our life, Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, the stark and brilliant filmed devastating satire on the horror that lurked in deepest recesses of everyone’s mind at a time when children learned“duck and cover” exercises in the classroom and weekly nuclear attack siren tests shrieked out every fourth Friday at noon, chilling every spine at the height of the Cold War. The film was a profound catharsis, forcing us to laugh at the thing we most feared.

And then in 1968, that pivotal year in Western culture when Martin Luther King Jr. and Bobby Kennedy were shot and students revolted in Paris and Chicago, came 2001: A Space Odyssey, probably the greatest psychedelic film ever made [and, yes, we were stoned the first time we saw it, as were most of the people in the audience in a geodesic dome theater in Orange County, California].

Other equally memorable films followed, but it was that four that awakened our deep appreciation for film, along with those Ingmar Bergman films every college student with intellectual pretensions flocked to back then [and, yes, they, too, were brilliant].

So what made Kubrick’s films so compelling?

For that we turn to a video from Channel Criswell Extra:

Stanley Kubrick – The Cinematic Experience

Program notes:

SONG LIST:

0:24-1:39 Handel – Sarabande
1:37-4:40 Schubert – Piano Trio In E-Flat
5:08-6:09 Beethoven’s 9th Symphony
6:20-8:45 Strauss – Voices of Spring Waltz
9:11-10:46 Rossini – The Thieving Magpie
10:50-12:22 Handel – Sarabande (Duel)
12:45-13:47 Gene Kelly – Singin’ In The Rain
13:53-15:44 Dr. Strangelove – Try A Little Tendreness
15:44-16:40 Mozart – March From Idomeneo
16:57-18:12 Beethoven – Ode To Joy
18:12-18:41 Strauss – The Blue Danube
18:46-20:04 – Strauss – Thus Sprach Zarathustra
20:05-20:30 Dmitri Shostokavich – Waltz No.2

It wasn’t just Crisswell and esnl who were permanently affected by Kubrick’s masterpieces.

The folks at a certain TV show were, too.

From Konbini.com via Really Dim:

#kubrick – The Simpsons – Candice Drouet

Program notes:

Stanley Kubrick And The Simpsons – Candice drouet

Here you have 25 years of visual references

Music (Midi) : Christian Cabrera / bit.ly/1TGpNdr
Paths of Glory / Dr. Strangelove / 2001: A Space Odyssey / A Clockwork Orange / Barry Lyndon / The Shining / Full Metal Jacket / Eyes Wide Shut

Map of the day II: A massive greening in the Arctic


From NASA, with a massive version of the image available at the link, a map of climate change-spawned vegetation changes compiled from satellite images captured between 1984 and 2012, with green pixels indicated increased vegetation growth and brown pixels indicating diminished growth:

Using 29 years of data from Landsat satellites, researchers at NASA have found extensive greening in the vegetation across Alaska and Canada. Rapidly increasing temperatures in the Arctic have led to longer growing seasons and changing soils for the plants. Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to scrublands, and shrub growing bigger and denser. From 1984–2012, extensive greening has occurred in the tundra of Western Alaska, the northern coast of Canada, and the tundra of Quebec and Labrador. Credits: NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center/Cindy Starr

Using 29 years of data from Landsat satellites, researchers at NASA have found extensive greening in the vegetation across Alaska and Canada. Rapidly increasing temperatures in the Arctic have led to longer growing seasons and changing soils for the plants. Scientists have observed grassy tundras changing to scrublands, and shrub growing bigger and denser. From 1984–2012, extensive greening has occurred in the tundra of Western Alaska, the northern coast of Canada, and the tundra of Quebec and Labrador. Credits: NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center/Cindy Starr

The story, from NASA:

The northern reaches of North America are getting greener, according to a NASA study that provides the most detailed look yet at plant life across Alaska and Canada. In a changing climate, almost a third of the land cover – much of it Arctic tundra – is looking more like landscapes found in warmer ecosystems.

With 87,000 images taken from Landsat satellites, converted into data that reflects the amount of healthy vegetation on the ground, the researchers found that western Alaska, Quebec and other regions became greener between 1984 and 2012. The new Landsat study further supports previous work that has shown changing vegetation in Arctic and boreal North America.

Landsat is a joint NASA/U.S. Geological Survey program that provides the longest continuous space-based record of Earth’s land vegetation in existence.

Previous surveys of the vegetation had taken a big-picture view of the region using coarse-resolution satellite sensors. To get a more detailed picture of the 4.1 million square-mile area, scientists used the Landsat 5 and Landsat 7 satellites.

Landsat, like other satellite missions, can use the amount of visible and near-infrared light reflected by the green, leafy vegetation of grasses, shrubs and trees to characterize the vegetation. Then, with computer programs that track each individual pixel of data over time, researchers can see if an area is greening – if more vegetation is growing, or if individual plants are getting larger and leafier. If, however, the vegetation becomes sparser, the scientists would classify that area as browning.

Researchers have used similar techniques to study Arctic and northern vegetation with other satellite instruments, such as the Advanced Very High Resolution Radiometer (AVHRR). But Landsat can see smaller differences across a landscape – it takes one measurement for each 30-by-30 meter (98-by-98 foot) parcel of land, which is about the size of a baseball diamond. AVHRR collected one measurement for each 4-by-4 kilometer (2.5-by-2.5 mile) area.

“We can see more detail with Landsat, and we can see the trend more reliably,” Ju said. With finer-resolution and better calibrated data from Landsat, the researchers were able to mask out areas that burned, or are covered in water, to focus on vegetation changes. The more detailed look – now available to other researchers as well – will also let scientists see if a correlation exists between habitat characteristics and greening or browning trends.

Read the rest.

Image of the day: Coral bleaching in the Maldives


Imagery from the latest XL Catlin Seaview Survey Reef Response expedition to the Maldives in May 2016.

Imagery from the latest XL Catlin Seaview Survey Reef Response expedition to the Maldives in May 2016.

A stunning image from the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, in partnership with Google, the University of Queensland, and the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Agency tracking the health of the world’s coral reefs at a time when they are threatening by the impacts of climate change.

The current global bleaching epidemic is by far the longest ever recorded, the survey reports.

The Maldives is a 26-atoll archipelago in the Indian Ocean southeast of the tip of India and an independent nation since 1965, with an economy dependent on tourists and fishing.

From the Survey’s 3rd Global Coral Bleaching Event – 2014/2016 web page:

In 1998, a huge underwater heatwave killed 16% of the corals on reefs around the world. Triggered by the El Niño of that year, it was declared the first major global coral bleaching event. The second global bleaching event that struck was triggered by the El Niño of 2010. The US National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced the third global bleaching event in October 2015 and it has already become the longest event recorded, impacting some reefs in consecutive years.

The new phenomenon of global coral bleaching events is caused by ocean warming (93% of climate change heat is absorbed by the ocean). Corals are unable to cope with today’s prolonged peaks in temperatures – they simply haven’t been able to adapt to the higher base temperatures of the ocean. Although reefs represent less than 0.1 percent of the world’s ocean floor, they help support approximately 25 percent of all marine species. As a result, the livelihoods of 500 million people and income worth over $30 billion are at stake.

The two previous events caught us relatively unprepared. The world simply didn’t have the technology, understanding or teams in place to reveal and record them properly. This year is different – sponsored by an insurance company interested in the risk resulting from ocean warming, the XL Catlin Seaview Survey, running off predictions issued by NOAA’s Coral Reef Watch programme (which have proven to be accurate), has been able to respond quickly. A major global bleaching event is considered one of the most visual indicators of climate change. Working together with science partners around the world, these free resources have been developed to help you research and communicate this important issue, and to ensure this event doesn’t stay out of sight and out of mind.

Lake Mead at lowest level since it was filled


And that was 79 years ago.

How low is it?

Two images from NASA’s Earth Observatory, the upper image taken in May 1984 when the reservoir was nearly full, the lower one snapped from orbit this week:

BLOG Lake Mead

More from NASA:

The last time Lake Mead was this low—in 1937—water managers were still filling the reservoir and putting finishing touches on the Hoover Dam. According to data from the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, the water level has now reached a record low for the second year in a row.

On May 25, 2016, the surface level of Lake Mead at the Hoover Dam stood at 1,074.03 feet (327.36 meters) above sea level. The previous low of 1,075.08 feet (327.68 meters) was set in late June 2015. The lowest water levels each year are usually reached in late June or July, after water managers have released the yearly allotment of water for farmers and cities farther down the Colorado River watershed. That means water levels are likely to continue to fall in 2016 to roughly 1,070 feet (326 meters), according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

The pair of Landsat images above show the lake near its highest and lowest points over the past 32 years. The top image was acquired on May 15, 1984, by the Thematic Mapper on the Landsat 5 satellite. The lake last approached full capacity in the summer of 1983. The second image was acquired on May 23, 2016, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. Turn on the image comparison tool to see the changes in the shoreline after lake water levels dropped 135 feet (41 meters). Notice the white-tan “bathtub ring” around the edges of the water; this is exposed sand and minerals that would normally be under water.

Lake Mead is now roughly 37 percent full. At maximum capacity, the reservoir would hold 9.3 trillion gallons (36 trillion liters) of water, reaching an elevation 1,220 feet (372 meters) near the dam. Most of the water in this great reservoir comes from snowmelt in the Rocky Mountain range and travels through Lake Powell, the Grand Canyon, and into Lake Mead. Farmers and some cities in Arizona, Nevada, California, and northern Mexico all rely on water from Lake Mead.

According to the Bureau of Reclamation, the lake will be refilled enough by the end of 2016 to avoid cuts in water deliveries in 2017. Lake Mead National Recreation Area continues to operate water sports, sightseeing, and hiking facilities in the area, despite ongoing drought.

The Colorado Basin has endured roughly sixteen years of drought and declining water levels in Lake Mead and Lake Powell. At the same time, populations continue to grow in the sun-drenched region.

Heavens above! Spiral galaxy NGC 1232


From the European Southern Observatory, a dramatic look back in time 60 million years ago, when the light we see today left the spectacular galaxy on its earthward journey:

This spectacular image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232 was obtained on September 21, 1998, during a period of good observing conditions. It is based on three exposures in ultra-violet, blue and red light, respectively. The colours of the different regions are well visible : the central areas contain older stars of reddish colour, while the spiral arms are populated by young, blue stars and many star-forming regions. Note the distorted companion galaxy on the left side, shaped like the greek letter "theta". NGC 1232 is located 20º south of the celestial equator, in the constellation Eridanus (The River). The distance is about 100 million light-years, but the excellent optical quality of the VLT and FORS allows us to see an incredible wealth of details. At the indicated distance, the edge of the field shown corresponds to about 200,000 light-years, or about twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy. The image is a composite of three images taken behind three different filters: U (360 nm; 10 min), B (420 nm; 6 min) and R (600 nm; 2:30 min) during a period of 0.7 arcsec seeing. The field shown measures 6.8 x 6.8 arcmin. North is up; East is to the left. #L

From the ESO:

This spectacular image of the large spiral galaxy NGC 1232 was obtained on September 21, 1998, during a period of good observing conditions. It is based on three exposures in ultra-violet, blue and red light, respectively. The colours of the different regions are well visible : the central areas contain older stars of reddish colour, while the spiral arms are populated by young, blue stars and many star-forming regions. Note the distorted companion galaxy on the left side, shaped like the greek letter “theta”.

NGC 1232 is located 20º south of the celestial equator, in the constellation Eridanus (The River). The distance is about 100 million light-years, but the excellent optical quality of the VLT and FORS allows us to see an incredible wealth of details. At the indicated distance, the edge of the field shown corresponds to about 200,000 light-years, or about twice the size of the Milky Way galaxy.

The image is a composite of three images taken behind three different filters: U (360 nm; 10 min), B (420 nm; 6 min) and R (600 nm; 2:30 min) during a period of 0.7 arcsec seeing. The field shown measures 6.8 x 6.8 arcmin. North is up; East is to the left.

Credit: ESO

Rallies across the world: March Against Monsanto


Narch agagaist Monstanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

March against Monsanto protesters in Mtubatuba, South Africa today.

Monsanto, the folks who brought you Roundup and all those patented Roundup Ready genetically modified crops they peddle, was the target and marches and rallies in more than 400 cities across the global today by folks angry at the firm’s control of so much of the world’s food supplies.

Big Agra’s been in a state of flux of late, with major mergers in the offing, as BBC News reported Thursday, when Bayer announced it wanted to buy the company:

There has been speculation for some months that Monsanto, the world’s biggest seed company, could become a target for either Bayer or BASF.

Bayer, which has a market value of about $90bn, is the second-largest producer of crop chemicals after Syngenta.

Monsanto, which has a market capitalisation of $42bn, attempted to buy Swiss rival Syngenta last year.

However, Syngenta ended up accepting a $43bn offer from ChemChina in February, although that deal is still being reviewed by regulators in the US.

Bayer’s acquisition of Monsanto is expected to be bigger in value than the ChemChina-Syngenta deal.

More from Reuters:

Deutsche Bank analysts said a deal could shift Bayer’s center of gravity to agriculture, accounting for about 55 percent of core earnings, up from roughly 28 percent last year excluding the Covestro chemicals business Bayer plans to sell.

That would have a negative impact on sentiment among Bayer’s healthcare-focused investor base, the bank said.

Bayer, which has a market value of $90 billion, said the merger would create “a leading integrated agriculture business”, referring to Bayer’s push to seek more synergies from combining the development and sale of seeds and crop protection chemicals.

Most of the major agrichemical companies are aiming to genetically engineer more robust plants and custom-build chemicals to go with them, selling them together to farmers who are struggling to contend with low commodity price.

And, just for the fun of it, some voideos from around the world and an image or two.

First, the march in Saarbrücken, Germany, from Heidi Schmitt:

March against Monsanto, 21.05.2016 in Saarbrücken

On to Paris, via Ruptly TV:

France: Parisians rally against Monsanto

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Paris on Saturday for the ‘March against Monsanto,’ in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation. Protesters held banners reading: “GMO/Pesticides = the next sanitary scandal” and “GMO no thanks.”

The activists are protesting against Monsanto’s Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) products and the alleged monopoly that Monsanto has in the food supply market.

Saturday’s march will mark the fourth annual ‘March against Monsanto.’ The march is set to take place in over 400 cities in more than 40 countries around the world.

Then off to Innsbruck, Austria with Klaus Schreiner:

2016 Monsanto Marsch Innsbruck

And then back to France and a march in Bordeaux from Gilbert Hanna:

Contre Monsanto and CO à Bordeaux marche internationale

Next, Amsterdam, via kafx:

March against Monsanto

And an image from Basel, Switzerland, via GM Watch:BLOG Monsanto Basel

Then to Toronto, via SupportLocalScene:

March Against Monsanto 2016 at Yonge & Dundas

Program notes:

Yonge and Dundas sees the Millions March Against Monsanto 2016 marching in downtown Toronto, Canada, May 21st 2016.

Next, an image form New York by Alex Beauchamp:

BLOG Monsanto NYC

Then to Japan with Ruptly TV:

Japan: Thousands protest against Monsanto in Tokyo

Program notes:

Several thousand protesters took to the streets of Tokyo for the ‘March against Monsanto’ on Saturday, in a demonstration against multinational agrochemical corporation.

Finally, via GM Watch, a scene from China:

BLOG Monsanto Taipei