The Mississippi River, a major river in the United States, is featured in this multi-temporal radar image captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-1 mission. It is the second-longest river in the U.S. (and all of North America), edged out by just a tiny bit by the Missouri River. It is the 11th longest river in the world.
The Mississippi River is one of the world’s major river systems in size, habitat diversity, and biological productivity. The river flows 2,340 miles (3766 km) from its source at Lake Itasca in northern Minnesota through the center of the continental United States to the Gulf of Mexico.
The area pictured here shows where the Mississippi straddles the states of Louisiana and Mississippi. The image combines three radar acquisitions from the Sentinel-1 mission taken 12 days apart to show changes in crop and land conditions over time. Bright colors in the image come from changes on the ground that have occurred between acquisitions.
Water bodies, including the Mississippi River, visible on the far right, and Catahoula Lake, on the far left, appear black as water surfaces reflect the radar signal away from the satellite. If we take a closer look, we can see cargo ships traveling along the Mississippi. Ships from April 7, 2022, appear in red, those from April 19 appear in green, and those from May 1 appear in blue.
This episode of the Earth From Space program features a Copernicus Sentinel-1 radar image of the Mississippi River, one of the longest rivers in North America. Credit: ESA – European Space Agency
White areas in the image indicate the various types of vegetation that surrounds the river, including the Kisatchie National Forest – the only national forest in Louisiana. The Mississippi is a classic example of a meandering alluvial river with its loops and curls along its path leaving behind meander scars, cutoffs, and free-standing ‘oxbow lakes’.
The Mississippi River Basin is home to a variety of agricultural activities. Nutrient-rich soil from sediment deposits through the floodplain supports cropland close to the river and its tributaries. Rectangular fields in the image are cultivated land. The farming of cotton and soybean make up a significant portion of the area’s economic production.
Sentinel-1A was the first satellite to be launched for Copernicus – the Earth observation component of the European Union’s space program. Looking ahead, the upcoming Sentinel-1C satellite scheduled to lift off on ESA’s Vega-C rocket from Europe’s Spaceport in French Guiana in the first half of 2023, will continue the critical task of delivering key radar imagery for a wide range of services, applications, and science.
The satellite is now at Thales Alenia Space’s Cannes plant on the French Riviera after it successfully completed all integration tests this summer in Rome, Italy. It will now undergo a final series of tests in Cannes, including radiofrequency performance checks in the facility’s anechoic chamber.
This image is also featured on the episode of the Earth From Space video program embedded above.