• Landsat 9, an Earth observation satellite launched by NASA, has released the first photographs of Earth.
  • The satellite measures temperature across the Earth’s surface; insights which are useful amid the changing climate.
  • For example, the images of Navajo Nation in the western US will help with monitoring drought conditions and water management.
  • USGS will operate Landsat 9 alongside Landsat 8 in future, which will collect about 1,500 images of Earth’s surface every day.

The latest photos from space provide unparalleled views of how world’s surface is changing.

Landsat 9, an Earth observation satellite that NASA launched Sept. 7, released the first photos of planet Earth captured on Oct. 31, NASA and the US Geological Survey (USGS) announced Friday (Nov. 5).

The nine photos, available for perusing online, capture Detroit with neighboring Lake St. Clair, the intersection of cities and beaches along a changing Florida coastline, Navajo Country in Arizona, the Himalayas, and the shorelines of Northern Australia.

The images are a small glimpse into the kind of data the satellite is collecting. The satellite detects visible, near-infrared light and thermal infrared data, the latter which measure Earth’s surface temperature and its changes. The improvements to Landsat 9 allows it to better detect subtle differences, including within densely-covered areas such as forests.

What’s the World Economic Forum doing about climate change?

Climate change poses an urgent threat demanding decisive action. Communities around the world are already experiencing increased climate impacts, from droughts to floods to rising seas. The World Economic Forum's Global Risks Report continues to rank these environmental threats at the top of the list.

To limit global temperature rise to well below 2°C and as close as possible to 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, it is essential that businesses, policy-makers, and civil society advance comprehensive near- and long-term climate actions in line with the goals of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

The World Economic Forum's Climate Initiative supports the scaling and acceleration of global climate action through public and private-sector collaboration. The Initiative works across several workstreams to develop and implement inclusive and ambitious solutions.

This includes the Alliance of CEO Climate Leaders, a global network of business leaders from various industries developing cost-effective solutions to transitioning to a low-carbon, climate-resilient economy. CEOs use their position and influence with policy-makers and corporate partners to accelerate the transition and realize the economic benefits of delivering a safer climate.

Contact us to get involved.

Amid a changing climate, the data collected provide scientists, city planners, farmers, and other stakeholders with information about crop health, irrigation use, water quality, wildfire severity, deforestation, glacial retreat, urban expansion, and more that can help them make better-informed choices for the future.

For instance, the images of Navajo Nation in the western US will aid with monitoring drought conditions and managing irrigation water. With only 85 rain gauges to cover more than 27,000 square miles, data there has been woefully incomplete; satellite imagery and climate models fill the gaps to help Navajo Nation monitor the drought severity, as NASA/USGS noted. In the Great Lakes, Landsat 9 captures swirls of green algae to help scientists and resource managers identify algal blooms early and select areas to test further.

The latest images add to 50 years of space-based Earth observation. Since 1972, a partnership between NASA and the US Geological Survey, a bureau within the US Department of the Interior that studies the landscape of the US, has continuously had satellites in orbit taking pictures of Earth. These images have shown cities expanding into deserts or the changing colors depicting changing crops (the latter has helped the US Department of Agriculture track crops over time).

In the future, USGS will operate Landsat 9 alongside Landsat 8, which will collect about 1,500 images of Earth’s surface every day, covering the globe every eight days.

a satellite view of remote coastal islands and inlets of the Kimberly region of Western Australia taken by Landsat 9
Remote coastal islands and inlets of the Kimberly region of Western Australia. In the top middle section of the image, the Mitchell River carves through sandstone, while to the left Bigge Island and the Coronation Islands stand out in the Indian Ocean.
Image: NASA/USGS
a satellite view of the Western US taken by Landsat 9
In the Western US, in places like the Navajo Nation as seen in this Landsat 9 image, Landsat and other satellite data help people monitor drought conditions and manage irrigation water.
Image: NASA/USGS
The city of Kathmandu, Nepal, seen at the bottom left of this Landsat 9 image, lies in a valley south of the Himalayan Mountains between Nepal and China.
The city of Kathmandu, Nepal, seen at the bottom left of this Landsat 9 image, lies in a valley south of the Himalayan Mountains between Nepal and China. Glaciers, and the lakes formed by glacial meltwater, are visible in the top middle of this image.
Image: NASA/USGS
a comparison of 4 different Landsat 9 images
The top left shows snow and glaciers in in the Himalayan mountains, leading to the flat Tibetan Plateau to the north. The bottom left shows the brown and green rectangles of farm fields in southern Ontario, sandwiched between Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair. The blue-white color in top right image shows cooler surface temperatures, while the orange-red indicates warmer surface temperatures. The white and grey rectangles in the bottom right image are produce greenhouses.
Image: NASA/USGS
a Landsat 9 image of both Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario,
Sediments swirl in Lake Erie and Lake St. Clair in this Landsat 9 image of both Detroit, Michigan, and Windsor, Ontario, from Oct. 31. The Great Lakes serve as sources of freshwater, recreational activity, transport, and habitat for the upper-midwestern United States, and water quality remains a high priority.
Image: NASA/USGS