The Bakken oil shale region: at night, and during the day

April 2nd, 2013
Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, and IR brightness temperature difference

Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band, 3.74 µm shortwave IR, and IR brightness temperature difference “fog/stratus product”

Signatures of extensive drilling activity in the Bakken oil shale formation region (primarily in northwestern North Dakota and far eastern Montana) could be seen in AWIPS images of 1-km resolution Suomi NPP VIIRS 0.7 µm Day/Night Band (DNB), 3.74 µm shortwave IR, and IR brightness temperature difference “fog/stratus product” data at 09:32 UTC or 3:32 AM local time on 02 April 2013 (above). On the DNB image, the bright lights of cities and towns are very evident, along with the widespread illumination of the drilling activity “man camps” and natural gas flares. Farther to the west in northeastern Montana, the brighter ice-covered portions of Fort Peck Lake can also be seen (south of Glasgow, station identifier KGGW).

While the majority of the drilling activity area was cloud-free, the fog/stratus product did show a few patches of stratus cloud to the north and to the south. The numerous black pixels on the fog/stratus product image indicated “hot spots” that were due to natural gas flares — the largest and hottest of which showed up with a yellow enhancement on the 3.74 µm shortwave IR image.

During the following daytime hours, a comparison of 250-meter resolution MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images at 19:44 UTC or 1:44 PM local time (below) from the SSEC MODIS Today site showed that the Bakken drilling activity region was generally located along the boundary between snow cover (cyan on the false color image) and bare ground to the south. In North Dakota the morning snow depth was 16 inches at Minot Air Force Base and 21 inches at Lansford (both located in the northeastern corner of the satellite scene). The Missouri river upstream of Garrison Dam was also seen to be snow and ice-covered. The extensive grid of well-traveled north-to-south and west-to-east roads and highways was also becoming apparent across the busy drilling activity region on the MODIS images. More clarity in the ice-covered portions of Fort Peck Lake was also seen.

MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

MODIS true-color and false-color Red/Green/Blue (RGB) images

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