WHILE many people have had their eyes on the ground watching as the parched NSW landscape turned drier and drier these past few years, there have been others watching from space.
New images released from NASA show just how green the state has become since mid 2018.
The natural colour images were captured by Aqua which is NASA’s Earth-observing satellite that has been orbiting at an altitude of 705 kilometres since 2002.
The first image, taken on May 25, 2018 shows just how dry the state was, while an image taken on June 5, 2020 shows how the landscape has greened in south-eastern Australia.
Data from the Bureau of Meteorology shows that 2018 was the warmest year on record for NSW, with heatwaves seeing temperatures recorded as high as 47.3 degrees.
It was also the sixth driest year for the state, with much of NSW impacted by the drought.
NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) research agricultural climatologist Anthony Clark said while the satellite images may be impressive, the drought was yet to reach its peak in May 2018.
“Mid 2018 was when the drought was really beginning to take hold, it was a long time before it peaked in late 2019 and again in the summer of 2020,” he said.
“The drought onset is a real process and we saw it starting in mid 2017.”
Mr Clark said the widespread green that is visible now is the early signs of recovery and it shows that things are picking up bio-physically.
“Areas in the far west and south around Monaro are still impacted by the drought,” he said.
While some of NSW is now green in the satellite images and on the DPI’s maps, much of the state is still drought affected.
“We’re really well set up for recovery, especially if we get some winter rain, but we’re not completely out of the woods yet,” Mr Clark said.
“We’re still at risk of a false recovery or entering back into drought.”
NASA’s Aqua Earth-observing satellite mission
Aqua is Latin for water and this satellite is gathering information about the Earth’s water cycle, NASA’s website states.
This information includes information on evaporation from oceans, water vapor in the atmosphere, clouds, precipitation, soil moisture, sea ice, land ice, and snow cover on the land and ice.
“Aqua was launched on May 4, 2002, and has six Earth-observing instruments on board, collecting a variety of global data sets,” NASA’s website states.
“Aqua was originally developed for a six-year design life but has now far exceeded that original goal.”