Gas Plume from Mt. Oyama, Japan

The MODIS sensor on NASA’s Terra satellite captured another spectacular clear image of Japan yesterday (April 6). The small version (2 kilometer detail) gives a nice overview; for a closer look try the full-resolution version (250 meter detail).

There’s still a good bit of snow up in the mountains. No obvious signs of the earthquake and tsunami damage on this low-resolution imagery, and the turbidity that we observed along the northeastern coast in the first few days following the quake seems to have dissipated or settled out.

Sharp-eyed viewers will note a pale blue plume blowing to the southeast from the island of Miyakejima. This is apparently a plume of sulfuric gases that have been emanating from Mount Oyama, an active volcano on the island, since the last series of eruptions began back in 2000:

Strong aftershocks continue to shake this traumatized region, including a 7.4-magnitude quake yesterday that prompted a brief tsunami warning.

Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Plant – Then and Now

Yesterday we posted on the deepening crisis at the blast-damaged Fukushima Daiichi power plant in Japan; our first version of that post compared a March 16 high-resolution satellite image of the plant with what we thought was a March 12 image of the same plant. A couple of alert readers pointed out that the March 12 image actually showed a sister nuke plant nearby, the Fukushima Daini plant, so we removed that image from the blog (you can see it here).

Today, we’ll take a look at before-and-after images of the struggling Daiichi plant made using imagery from DigitalGlobe and Google Earth:

Fukushima Daiichi, high-resolution satellite image taken March 16, 2011 (from DigitalGlobe). Obvious damage to the outer containment buildings from hydrogen explosions at reactor units 1, 3 and 4. Unit 2 appears relatively intact but unseen damage inside the unit from a March 14 explosion is posing a serious threat


Fukushima Daiichi, high-resolution satellite image taken in 2004, with 3-d buildings shown for reference (from Google Earth)


Fukushima Daiichi, high-resolution satellite image taken in 2004 without 3-d buildings overlay (from Google Earth)

Damage to Nuclear Reactor Buildings – Fukushima Daiichi Power Plant, Japan

The situation is steadily getting worse at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant crippled by Japan’s earthquake and tsunami.

Here’s what it looks like today, on March 16:

These hi-resolution satellite images from DigitalGlobe starkly reveal the extent of damage to the outer containment buildings surrounding the reactors. Check out all of the images and damage analyses at the DigitalGlobe website.

2011 Japan Quake and Tsunami – Before / After Images

Lots of satellite images of this disaster, including very high-resolution images from Geoeye and DigitalGlobe, are now becoming publicly available, showing from above the destructive power of the brutal one-two punch Japan has endured. Here’s a panoramic before/after view of what used to be the pretty little coastal neighborhood of Arahama in the city of Sendai, 80 miles due west from the quake’s epicenter and in the immediate path of the nearly 30-foot-high tsunami that swept the coast. The ocean is at lower right.

Many more before/after high-resolution satellite images can be seen by Google Earth users if you download this KML file from Google’s information-packed 2011 Japanese Earthquake and Tsunami Crisis Response website. The KML includes low-resolution MODIS and radar images too, and reports from folks on the ground that are being collected using Ushahidi, the same tool we’ve deployed to track impacts in the Gulf during the BP oil spill.

Don’t use Google Earth? There are several sites featuring collections of high-resolution images:

And NASA has a page featuring their low-resolution daily MODIS images, which we’ve found useful for illustrating smoke plumes and ocean turbidity.

Let us know if you find more useful images. Natural disasters aren’t our main focus here at SkyTruth, but if we can see a way to help when they occur we’ll do what we can.

Sendai Tsunami – Turbidity and Smoke, March 13

Clear skies follow tragedy: this MODIS / Aqua satellite image to the left was taken on March 13, 2011 at about 12:55 pm local time in Japan. Click on it to see a larger version.

Striking bright aqua and turquoise patterns in the water reveal turbidity along much of the Pacific coast of northeastern Japan.

This turbidity is probably sand, churned up off the seafloor and scoured from beaches by the massive magnitude 8.9 earthquake and series of destructuive tsunmami waves that it generated; and mud and debris washed off lowlying coastal areas that were inundated by the tsunami.

Several plumes of smoke are visible as well, blowing eastward off the coast and out to sea. Three faint white plumes are visible between Miyako and Sendai. A fourth plume, dark brown, continues to emanate from the city of Sendai and may be caused in part by a fire at a major petrochemical facility.

Radiation leaks from crippled nuclear reactors along the coast are a serious concern at this time. If prevailing winds continue to blow from the west, releases of radioactive gases into the air should move offshore.

Smoke and Turbidity – Sendai, Japan

We’ve done our own processing on a NASA / MODIS satellite image showing a large smoke plume coming from the port city of Sendai. The image was taken from the Aqua satellite at 12:10 pm local time on March 12. The magnitude 8.9 quake struck at 2:46 pm local time on March 11, and tsunami waves crashed ashore along the northeastern coast of Japan shortly after.

The dark brown smoke plume stretches to the southeast, reaching at least 115 kilometers (73 miles) over the ocean.

Notice the bright turquoise patterns in the water; this is turbidity, quite possibly sand stirred up from the seafloor by the scouring action of the massive waves, and debris and sediment from flooded coastal areas dragged out to sea as the waves receded. Clouds and snow are bright white in this image, processed to enhance the smoke and turbidity:

Earthquake and Tsunami – Sendai, Japan

The Ring of Fire strikes again.

We’re starting to see satellite imagery of the damage caused by the massive earthquake and resulting tsunami that struck northeastern Japan yesterday (this aerial video shows the waves approaching shore, and the terrifying destruction as they sweep through coastal towns). Some resources:

DigitalGlobe has a Flickr gallery of high-resolution images and produced a cursory analysis (PDF).

High-resolution satellite image showing shipping containers scattered by the tsunami in the port of Sendai, March 12, 2011. Image courtesy of DigitalGlobe.

The MODIS imaging team’s website at NASA now has a Japan Earthquake Project page. The low-resolution MODIS sytem captured an image at about noon local time on March 12, showing a large plume of smoke blowing out to sea from Sendai. Before-and-after images give a glimpse through the clouds of broad coastal flooding as of 10am local time yesterday.

Please submit a comment if you run across other useful sources of satellite imagery for this event.