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Earthquake Satellite Imagery

Satellite image of Sri Lanka

Images above: Tsunami Strikes Sri Lanka: On December 26, 2004, tsunamis swept across the Indian ocean, spawned by a magnitude 9.0 earthquake off the coast of Sumatra. Aside from Indonesia, the island nation of Sri Lanka likely suffered the most casualties, with the death toll reported at 21,715 on December 29th. DigitalGlobe’s Quickbird satellite captured an image of the devastation around Kalutara, Sri Lanka (top), on December 26, 2004, at 10:20 a.m. local time—about an hour after the first in the series of waves hit. (A Quickbird image taken on January 1, 2004 (lower), shows the normal ocean conditions.) Water is flowing out of the inundated area and back into the sea, creating turbulence offshore. Some near-shore streets and yards are covered with muddy water. It is possible that the image was acquired in a “trough” between wave crests. Imagery of nearby beaches shows that the edge of the ocean had receded about 150 meters from the shoreline. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: Images Copyright DigitalGlobe

Satellite image of Lhoknga, Indonesia

Images above: Tsunami Destroys Lhoknga, Indonesia: The Indonesian province of Aceh was hit hardest by the earthquake and tsunamis of December 26, 2004. Aceh is located on the northern tip of the island of Sumatra. The largest waves struck the northwestern coast of Sumatra. The town of Lhoknga, on the west coast of Sumatra near the capital of Aceh, Banda Aceh, was completely destroyed by the tsunami, with the exception of the mosque (white circular feature) in the city’s center. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: Ikonos images copyright Centre for Remote Imaging, Sensing and Processing, National University of Singapore and Space Imaging.

Satellite images of Aceh, Sumatra before and after the earthquake.

Images above: Tsunami Damage in Northern Sumatra: This pair of images from the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite shows the Aceh province of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, on December 17, 2004, before the quake (bottom), and on December 29, 2004 (top), three days after the catastrophe. On December 17, the green vegetation along the west coast appears to reach all the way to the sea, with an occasional stretch of sand (white). After the earthquake and tsunamis, the entire western coast is lined with a purplish-brown border. The brownish border could be deposited sand, or perhaps exposed soil that was stripped bare of vegetation when the large waves rushed ashore and then raced away. Another possibility is that parts of the coastline may have sunk as the sea floor near the plate boundary rose. In places the brown strip reaches inland to a distance of about 2 miles. Click on image to enlarge. Credit: NASA MODIS Rapid Response team

For the press release associated with these images, please go to: http://www.nasa.gov/home/hqnews/2005/jan/HQ_05011_earthquake.html

For High Resolution Images, visit these links:

+ Image One

+ Image Two

+ Image Three

For the details on the Sumatara, Indonesia Earthquake, please visit the USGS web site: http://neic.usgs.gov/neis/bulletin/neic_slav_ts.html

Rob Gutro
Goddard Space Flight Center