Satellite Imagery and Tulare Lake Flooding

UPDATED 4/2/2023.

I’ve been watching the floods progress on the satellite. LANDSAT orbits every 8 days, and Sentinel goes over every 5. These views are at the mercy of cloud cover, but you get the occasional peek at the big picture. Here is a progression of satellite images starting 3/13/2023.

3/13/LANDSAT Color Infrared – The red imagery shows near infrared light, which highlights green vegetation.

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3/13/LANDSAT Natural Color

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3/21 LANDSAT Color Infrared

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3/21 Natural Color

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Sentinel has 10m pixels, vs LANDSAT’s 30m (100 feet).
These images are also of Corcoran area, from 3/17.

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3/17 Natural Color

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It sounds like emergency managers were able to use Sentinel to get a decent perimeter of the flooding last week (3/10), but they too are at the mercy of the clouds.
Clouds, you say? No problem for Synthetic Aperture Radar! Here is a SAR image from 3/14. Harder to make pretty, but SAR is getting more popular, and commercial sources are getting a lot of development right not.Screen Shot 2023-03-24 at 7.21.22 PM

Here are SAR images from 3/26/2023

4/1/2023 Sentinel Imagery

Tulare Lake is at the terminus of several large rivers which have been dammed and diverted over the past century to keep the basin, the lowest land the San Joaquin Valley, dry for farming. The 1st map shows elevations below about 400′, second is from 1876. Ditches are brown.

Almost all of the currently flooded land in the Tulare Lake Basin is owned by the Boswell Company.

Looking at current (4/1/2023) flooding extent, it is clear there is still plenty of the old Tulare Lake bed to fill. We’ll keep following this story as we move into peak snowmelt season!

I’m reading Max Arax’s ‘The King of California’ book. He talks about how Southerners moved to Kings County in the early 1900s to grow cotton and brought their politics with them. Southern blacks also migrated to the Western cotton fields. You can see the higher levels of Southern immigrants in the maps below. (Source)