Skip to main content
U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government

For five decades, Landsat satellites have captured a variety of natural disasters and their effects. The most recently launched, Landsat 9, peered down at Hurricane Ian on Tuesday morning as the dangerous storm swept over Cuba and then headed toward Florida, where it made landfall Wednesday afternoon.

Satellite thermal image of red hurricane eye surrounded by blue
Landsat 9's thermal bands offer an alternative view where the warmer red reveals the warmer eye surrounded by a cooler blue. Image credit: USGS EROS

The eye of the storm appears as a small round window, with thermal bands offering an alternative view where the warmer red reveals the warmer eye surrounded by a cooler blue.

Typically, cloud cover obscuring the Earth’s surface would make a Landsat scene unusable. But in this image of part of Cuba, the clouds are the point. The image is about 185 kilometers, or 115 miles, wide, showing the sheer size of the storm.

Landsat imagery also can reveal the extent of flooding in the aftermath of hurricanes and thunderstorms, or even dam breaks. With three satellites currently capturing imagery—Landsat 7, Landsat 8 and Landsat 9, the most at one time in the Landsat program’s history—there should be plenty of opportunity to view the results of heavy rainfall and storm surges in the next couple weeks in Florida, Georgia and South Carolina.

Infographic showing satellite paths overlaid on the extreme southeastern United States and Cuba
Upcoming Landsat path/row acquisitions for areas potentially affected by Hurricane Ian and its aftermath. Image credit: USGS EROS

Landsat images are among the remote sensing images that feed into the International Charter Space and Major Disasters’ Hazard Data Distribution System to provide support for those affected by hurricanes, typhoons, volcanoes, earthquakes, widespread flooding and more. When a disaster strikes, including this one, USGS Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center helps make imagery quickly available to agencies for monitoring, mapmaking and rescue efforts.

Hurricane Ian strengthened from a Category 3 storm in Cuba to a Category 4 storm as it entered Florida’s western side south of Fort Myers. The entire island of Cuba lost power, and 50,000 people there were evacuated. In Florida, 2.5 million people were ordered to evacuate as the hurricane was expected to weaken and travel up through the state into Georgia and South Carolina.  

Get Our News

These items are in the RSS feed format (Really Simple Syndication) based on categories such as topics, locations, and more. You can install and RSS reader browser extension, software, or use a third-party service to receive immediate news updates depending on the feed that you have added. If you click the feed links below, they may look strange because they are simply XML code. An RSS reader can easily read this code and push out a notification to you when something new is posted to our site.