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Fourteen months after Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc on Puerto Rico, causing widespread flooding and power outages, NASA researchers are still studying the storm's long-term effects on the island's natural environment as well as its human population.
Using satellite data and imagery, researchers have mapped the ongoing power outages across the island. Their data show that long-term blackouts have disproportionately affected people in rural areas.
Suomi - NPP - Satellite - Image - Hurricane
The Suomi NPP satellite provided this thermal image of Hurricane Maria on Sept. 21, 2017, shortly after the storm moved off the coast of Puerto Rico.
Satellite images taken of Puerto Rico by night before Hurricane Maria show an island aglow with artificial light from cities and smaller communities. After Hurricane Maria ravaged the island as a Category 4 storm, a blackout left the island practically invisible from space at night, with the exception of a small area around San Juan.
Months - Power - Island - Percent - US
Six months later, power was restored to much of the island, and about 16 percent of the U.S. territory remained without power. But that didn't last long. Puerto Rico's power grid collapsed once again in April 2018, causing an islandwide blackout.
Scientists at NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Maryland, have been monitoring Puerto Rico's electricity grid since the hurricane by creating maps of the island's lights using imagery from the Suomi NPP satellite, a joint operation between NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The satellite is best known for its gorgeous "Black Marble" images of Earth by night.
Images - Suomi - NPP - Landsat - Images
By combining images from Suomi NPP with Landsat images and OpenStreetMap data, the researchers "developed neighborhood-scale maps of lighting in communities across Puerto Rico," NASA officials said.
The study found that Puerto Rico's power outages disproportionately affected rural communities, where 41 percent of neighborhoods underwent "prolonged periods of outage," while only 29 percent of urban areas suffered from lengthy...
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