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Environment

Watch the Pacific Northwest Change Before Your Eyes

An award-winning visualization uses satellite imagery to reveal the ravages of development, fire, insects, and clear-cut logging.
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Sam Hooper

There have been great upheavals in the Pacific Northwest’s landscape over the past decades—vast areas of forest lost to development, fire, insect damage, and logging activity. But the changes are largely invisible to most people, because of their remote locations or carefully screened-off boundaries. Using a time-lapse animation of satellite imagery, Sam Hooper, a faculty research assistant at Oregon State University, has revealed the disturbances in Oregon and Washington brought on by human and natural activity since the 1990s.

Hooper used Landsat data via the nifty LandTrendr tool to craft “Listening to Landscapes,” which just won the People’s Choice Award at Science’s Data Stories Contest. With gorgeous, flowing surfaces and a contemplative soundtrack Hooper composed on his laptop, the film is a short but eye-opening window into often-hidden world of regional environmental change.