Earth Matters

February Puzzler

February 24th, 2016 by Adam Voiland


Every month on Earth Matters, we offer a puzzling satellite image. The February 2016 puzzler is above. Your challenge is to use the comments section to tell us what part of the world we are looking at, when the image was acquired, what the image shows, and why the scene is interesting.

How to answer. Your answer can be a few words or several paragraphs. (Try to keep it shorter than 200 words). You might simply tell us what part of the world an image shows. Or you can dig deeper and explain what satellite and instrument produced the image, what spectral bands were used to create it, or what is compelling about some obscure speck in the far corner of an image. If you think something is interesting or noteworthy, tell us about it.

The prize. We can’t offer prize money, but, we can promise you credit and glory (well, maybe just credit). Roughly one week after a puzzler image appears on this blog, we will post an annotated and captioned version as our Image of the Day. In the credits, we’ll acknowledge the person who was first to correctly ID the image. We’ll also recognize people who offer the most interesting tidbits of information about the geological, meteorological, or human processes that have played a role in molding the landscape. Please include your preferred name or alias with your comment. If you work for or attend an institution that you want us to recognize, please mention that as well.

Recent winners. If you’ve won the puzzler in the last few months or work in geospatial imaging, please sit on your hands for at least a day to give others a chance to play.

Releasing Comments. Savvy readers have solved some of our puzzlers after only a few minutes or hours. To give more people a chance to play, we may wait between 24-48 hours before posting the answers we receive in the comment thread.

Good luck!

Update: The answer is posted here.

27 Responses to “February Puzzler”

  1. Jai says:

    Guess the instrument should be, laser interferometer.

    The places should be West africa and Syria…

  2. Datocus says:

    I am not sure if this is simply one location consisting of a large scale farmlands and prairies, or possibly an unmasked, compressed box layers of several locations that were scanned by the satellite and waiting for decompressing, unimapping, and unboxing of layers.

    I can say that I recognize several places including what appears to be a hard dirt area that’s possibly either a salt flat or a construction area, several areas appear to be large flats of farmland, and the grid appears to be roads, connected to what appears to houses

  3. Frank Campanella says:

    I think this is a cranberry farm towards the end of it’s harvest. The brown patches are cranberries gathered into groups, and the green is the water in which they are grown. Perhaps this shot was taken over Midwestern America.

  4. skewtoo says:

    Well I don’t know where but the image has been grided and then cut and scrambled. So with a bit of work it could be re-configured to the. original – but i kinda like this way.

  5. Janet says:

    Irrigated farmland just south of the Salton Sea in California.

  6. Gavin McMorrow says:

    Salta Province, #Argentina : Exact coords -24°54.324′, -063°08.679′
    Approx. 120 square km visible in image.
    Most likely viticulture (vineyards), although tobacco and sugar cane are other agricultural possibilities for this region. Image overlay found here: : Base image in tweet reply is from Landsat 8 (Operational Land Imager) OLI Multi-Spectral bands (1-7,9: 30 meters)

    • Ann Mullen says:

      Looks like you creaked it Gavin, I was thinking of somewhere like Holland and their horticultural farming.

  7. computerhog57 says:

    I think its the farm lands of Wisconsin. The grids are land areas that are being used for different stages of producing crop.

  8. Gavin McMorrow says:

    Salta Province, #Argentina : Exact coords -24°54.324′, -063°08.679′
    Approx. 120 square km visible in image.
    Most likely viticulture (vineyards), although tobacco and sugar cane are other agricultural possibilities for this region.

  9. Dan Smith says:

    Iowa corn fields with some fields eaten by army worms. Green spots in middle of some squares are pump stations for wells

  10. Haian AbouKaram says:

    1- The Pattern and texture shows that fields are very arranged, so it could not be in some developing country such as Syria. 2- The objects show that there are small towns or villages so I suggest that the image captured by Landsat-8 or Aster. The spatial resolution is not less than 15m. 3- I think that false composite by using natural-color is a technique that used. 4- The vertical lines in some areas show that the rain and wind maybe and perhaps usually come from the north. Most of the farms are irrigated.

  11. chemica says:

    I Think ..
    South part of Canada ..

  12. GeoChris1 says:

    I think this is a NDVI scene. The reddish tones are showing areas of relative vegetation die-off (bare earth) where the darker green are healthier vegetation. The horizontal row crops you see in several of the quarters(?) would support this. To do this sort of image you really only need visible spectrum and near infrared. (NIR-VIS/NIR+VIS) will give you the index, and then you need only play with your RGB to get it to display like this.

  13. esteban says:

    Someone on instagram pointed out Salta province in my home country of Argentina. If you look at 22ºS there lays the same kind of fields going on, but I havent find any squared fields like those in the image still, they are all rectangular in shape. In the case of Salta, those aren’t fields, they are native forests called El impenetrable (the unpenetrable) and looks like they have left tiny spots of woods, maybe for natural reforestation.

  14. William says:


  15. William says:


  16. Duane Houck says:

    Chaco like the rest of Brazil is under siege from commercial developments. One great difference is that this great savannah likely has soils which can produce sustainable farming but the required transportation systems will likely doom many millions of acres of forest to get the product to the nearest port which is probably in Peru not Brazil and the likely customer is China.

  17. Eva says:

    Chaco Forest in northern Argentina – decimated for livestock and crops, burn scars are visible

  18. Margaret says:

    I agree with Gavin McMorrow. This is in the Salta province of Argentina, just south of the town of Rivadavia.

  19. John Muth says:


  20. Becky Evermon says:

    It is the Chaco forest burn area in Argentina.


    Excuse me my language, my native language is Spanish. I will try to give the answer in English Language.
    The place is in north of Argentina. The right corner in the bottom has the aproximate coordinates 24°57.5′ S and 63°4.5′ O. It is approximatelly 230 Km of distance to the more near point of the frontier with Paraguay in north east direction and 320 Km of distance to the border with Bolivia in North direction. Also it is 250 Km aproximatelly from the more near border to Bolivia in North West orientation. Its altitude is approximately 250 m above sea level. Around this place there are many extend plain terrain.

  22. Monica Rollan says:

    The chaco forests of northern Argentina

  23. Jessie Henshaw says:

    Have you checked the correlation between the progression of forest burns and either local or global growth of GDP?

    Economically there’s every reason they should be liked, with superimposed local events as fluctuation on larger scale progressions. I’ve been searching for a couple years for anyone doing this, frustrated so far. The baseline data linking physical and financial impacts on the earth is so dramatically clear and constant, there’s no question of there being an interesting story in what earth impacts are and are not directly linked to GDP!

    Some people don’t like the math I end up with, but you’ll love it once you understand both its basis and use for inclusive accounting of what we’re doing to the earth.

  24. Edison Malstrom says:

    Coral ecology is the study of relationships between living organisms found on coral reefs and their interactions with the natural and human environment.  All kinds of sea creatures, corals and other invertebrates, fish, algae and seagrasses, are all integrally linked together and dependent on the hard structure built by corals and coralline algae.