Exceptional, early monsoon rains in northern India and Nepal combined with melting snow to bring horrific flooding and landslides to the region in mid-June 2013. According to national and international relief agencies, more than 1,050 people died, thousands more went missing, and hundreds of thousands had their lives disrupted (mostly through the damage or loss of their homes). Indian government officials reported that 744 villages and hamlets had lost some or all of their connectivity—roads, water, or electric power—to the rest of the country.
Three weeks after the disaster, people were trying to pick up the pieces of their lives, and scientists and government officials were trying to piece together what happened. Instruments such as cameras on the International Space Station (ISS) and an imager on the Landsat 8 satellite are being used to assess the damage to the landscape.
On June 26, 2013, the ISERV Pathfinder camera on the ISS captured the top image of India’s Mandakini River, near the village of Tilwara in Uttarakhand state. The river still appeared to be swollen, though deposits of chalky gray and tan sediments also made the banks difficult to discern from the river itself. (Note that the image is hazy due to the atmosphere and because the ISS did not pass directly over the site; the camera has a fixed, downward pointing lens, so images on the edge of the field of view are less crisp.) For comparison, the lower image from DigitalGlobe’s WorldView-2 satellite shows the same area as it appeared on March 2, 2009.
ISERV is an engineering “testbed” instrument developed to support a joint NASA/U.S. Agency for International Development effort known as SERVIR. The program provides satellite data and tools to environmental decision-makers in developing countries and operates via regional centers in Nairobi, Kenya; Kathmandu, Nepal; and Panama City, Panama.
The ISERV imagery has been made available to the International Charter, which was activated in the Indian state of Uttarakhand in response to the flooding disaster. The International Charter helps coordinate space agencies around that world to provide data, imagery, and other space technology solutions to help mitigate the effects of disasters.
Following on the heels of another storm, heavy snow fell on Colorado and neighboring states on February 24, 2013. On February 25, the Denver/Boulder Forecast Office of the National Weather Service reported preliminary snow totals – including 27.2 inches (69.1 centimeters) west of Denver – and blizzard conditions to the east. Like the previous storm, this one continued moving eastward.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this image on February 25, 2013. Snow extended across Colorado and Wyoming, and covered parts of Utah, New Mexico, and Nebraska. Although clouds had cleared in the west, cloud cover lingered in southeastern Colorado, western Kansas, and the Oklahoma panhandle. The day after MODIS acquired this image, a new snowstorm moved into the region.
A dust storm blew through Turkmenistan at the end of February 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite acquired this image on February 28. The dust formed an arc, blowing first to the west then curving toward the north.
Sand seas stretch over most of Turkmenistan, providing ample material for dust storms. This storm, however, appears to have arisen from sandy desert terrain in Afghanistan. The storm likely picked up additional dust particles over Turkmenistan.
In late February 2013, a major snowstorm made its way across the continental United States, dropping snow from Colorado to the Great Lakes region. The National Weather Service reported snow totals of 5 to 8 inches (13 to 20 centimeters) in many parts of the Central Plains and Upper Mississippi River Valley. Some parts of the Central Plains experienced snowfall rates as high as 4 inches (10 centimeters) per hour, along with thundersnow.
The Visible Infrared Imaging Radiometer Suite (VIIRS) on the Suomi NPP satellite captured this nighttime view at 1:55 a.m. Central Standard Time on February 23. This imagery is from the VIIRS “day-night band,” which detects light in a range of wavelengths from green to near-infrared. The day-night band takes advantage of moonlight, airglow, and starlight to brighten the landscape and uses filtering techniques to observe signals such as city lights and snow cover. On the night of this image, the Moon was nearly full.
Saharan dust blew over the Mediterranean Sea in late February 2013. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite took this picture on February 22.
Most of the dust blew off the coast of Egypt, partially obscuring the satellite sensor’s view of the Nile Delta. An especially thick river of dust stretched northward past the Greek island of Kriti (Crete). In the north, the dust encountered cloudbanks.
Sand seas extend over large portions of Libya and Egypt. In Egypt, a little less than 3 percent of the land is arable; in Libya, just over 1 percent of the land is arable. Dust storms rank among the most frequent natural hazards for both countries.