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.
Landsat 9 Captures Swirling Hurricane Ian
Eye of the storm lies next to Cuba in image
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.
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.