Churchill, Man., is a northern community situated at the estuary of the Churchill River in Hudson Bay. Known for polar bears in the fall and beluga whales in summer, the area also supports migrating shorebirds and waterfowl.
During the long and harsh winter, Hudson Bay is covered in thick sea ice. In spring, the ice slowly begins to melt, creating a patchwork of ice floes and melt ponds. Perfect conditions for satellite art.
This stunning satellite image was collected on March 24, 2021, by the Canadian Space Agency’s (CSA) RADARSAT Constellation Mission and traverses the shoreline of Hudson Bay about 50 kilometres east of Churchill. The raw image was enhanced by Michael Merchant, DUC’s lead remote sensing analyst for our national boreal program, to create a 25-kilometre by 15-kilometre composite highlighting the changing winter conditions in the bay. To the left is the intertidal zone, and to the right are late-winter ice floes in bright green.
A large sea ice melt pond can be seen as black, while areas with purple hues are soon-to-form ponds. Meltwater ponds are important resting habitat for migratory birds and other wildlife.
In his role with DUC, Merchant utilizes various Earth observation satellite data to map and monitor boreal environments. A PhD candidate at the University of Guelph, he is developing techniques that characterize wetland inundation frequency in Canada’s polar region using satellite radar data and machine learning.
Art and science on display
Merchant’s image is part of a larger online collection in the CSA’s Satellite Art Gallery from 23 organizations challenged to create them. Rediscover the majesty of Canada’s vast and varied landscapes through the eyes of technicians like Merchant who use satellites to explore Earth at the CSA website: asc-csa.gc.ca
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