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While there have been a range of hazards affecting different parts of the world this summer including forest fires and heat waves in the US, forest fires in Northern Catalonia (Spain) and France, along with flooding and landslides across a number of different countries including the UK, the Greenland ice sheet has recently underwent some serious surface melting, the most observed in three decades of satellite observations according to the NASA Earth Observatory.  Their satellites on 8 July first showed 40 percent of the ice sheet thawing at or near the surface and by 12 July the melting ‘spread dramatically beyond the norm’.  Now the fact that the Greenland ice sheet is melting in the summer time is hardly news, but melting in July has been extreme coinciding with the presence of a ridge of unusually warm air creating a ‘heat dome’ over Greenland. Read more

Remote sensing provides a unique perspective of disasters that allows their full impact to be viewed in great detail.  It can help people manage disasters and is an effective way of understanding the impacts of a large-scale hazard such as a tsunami.  NASA’s satellites are of course some of the most valuable tools available for remote sensing, but other organisations such as the European Space Agency and China Academy of Space Technology also do high-resolution remote sensing.  Here are some images of disasters acquired by the Landsat 7, including the flooding of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina and the Sendai coast in Japan before and after the Tohoku tsunami.

This image shows the path of destruction left by a series of tornadoes that tore through the Upper Midwest region of the US on 7 June 2007.  The tornadoes flattened farm fields and strong winds uprooted trees sending them crashing into people’s homes.

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Using LIDAR remote sensing (light detection and ranging) geoscientists made a detailed scan of an earthquake zone in northern Mexico and compared it with a survey taken before the 2010 Sierra El Mayor Earthquake.  They found that the quake did not occur on a major fault, but through a series of small faults that came together.

Here is a 3D visualisation of the earthquake zone mapped by researchers.

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