Landsat satellites see Texas crop circles

Apr 27, 2012 by Ellen Gray

(Phys.org) -- A water-rich polka dot pattern takes over the traditional rectangular patchwork of fields in this time series animation of 40 years of Landsat images. In the dry Texas panhandle near the town of Dalhart, this transformation is due to center-pivot irrigation, a farming method that improves water distribution to fields. It was invented by farmer Frank Zybach in 1949.

Center-pivot irrigation works by pumping water from the center of the field through a long pipe that rotates above growing like the hand of a clock. Evenly spaced sprinklers along the pipe deliver water with minimal loss to . Farmers like center-pivot irrigation because it works with a variety of soil types and it can be used on slopes where other gravity-driven forms of irrigation cannot.

As it caught on in the United States and abroad, it revolutionized agriculture since the system can be adapted to a wide variety of terrains and is more efficient with water and labor than other forms of irrigation. Together, all types of water 20 percent of cultivated fields worldwide, and those fields produce about 40 percent of the global food supply.

In this time series animation, vegetation appears red and the bare soil of fallow fields or sparsely vegetated grasslands appear white to green. The blue-gray X near the center of the images marks the town of Dalhart.

This series uses data from four satellites. Shown in this false color composite is light reflected from the near-infrared, red, and green regions of the electromagnetic spectrum (bands 4, 2, and 1 from the Multispectral Scanner Systems (MSS) aboard Landsat 1, 2, and 4, and bands 4, 3, and 2 from the Thematic Mapper (TM) aboard Landsat 5).

The Landsat satellites have provided scientific data on Earth's land surfaces for the past 40 years: Landsat 1 from 1972 to 1978; Landsat 2 from 1975 to 1982; Landsat 3 from 1978 to 1983; Landsat 4 from 1982 to 1993; and Landsat 5 for a record-breaking 28 years from 1984 to what was likely its last data downlink in 2011.

Currently, Landsat 7, launched in 1999 is still providing data. The data from Landsat satellites has been instrumental in increasing our understanding of forest health, storm damage, agricultural trends, urban growth, and many other ongoing changes to our land.

NASA and the U.S. Department of the Interior through the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) jointly manage Landsat, and the USGS preserves a 40-year archive of Landsat images that is freely available data over the Internet.

The next Landsat satellite, now known as the Landsat Data Continuity Mission (LDCM) and later to be called Landsat 8, is scheduled for launch in January 2013.

Explore further: Quakes destroy or damage 83 houses in Philippines

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

NASA sees new salt in an ancient sea

Apr 09, 2012

(Phys.org) -- The expansion of massive salt evaporation projects on the Dead Sea are clearly visible in this time series of images taken by Landsat satellites operated by NASA and the U.S. Geological Survey.

Recommended for you

Kiribati leader visits Arctic on climate mission

Sep 20, 2014

Fearing that his Pacific island nation could be swallowed by a rising ocean, the president of Kiribati says a visit to the melting Arctic has helped him appreciate the scale of the threat.

NASA catches a weaker Edouard, headed toward Azores

Sep 19, 2014

NASA's Aqua satellite passed over the Atlantic Ocean and captured a picture of Tropical Storm Edouard as it continues to weaken. The National Hurricane Center expects Edouard to affect the western Azores ...

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Birger
not rated yet Apr 27, 2012
Drip irrigation is more expensive, but better, since there is less loss from evaporation.
Sadly irrigation in much of the South removes water faster than it is replaced, resulting in drainage of the acquifers.