Earth Imaging Journal: Remote Sensing, Satellite Images, Satellite Imagery
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The Landsat 8 satellite acquired this image on Sept. 27, 2013. The Heilong River swallowed up the Chinese town of Bachaxiang, having overcome the straight white levee that stands between the town and the river’s usual channels.

Images from two different Landsat satellites show dramatic before-and-after images of September’s massive flooding along the Heilong River, which forms the China-Russia border.

This image from the Landsat 5 satellite shows the Amur/Heilong River on Sept. 19, 2010. The flood plain is covered by intertwined channels cut during previous floods. Because of the nature of the flood plain, water can linger for a long time. In this image, some of the old channels still hold water, which appears nearly black in this scene.

The Amur River (Heilong Jiang in Chinese) flows unfettered from Mongolia to China to Russia (forming the Chinese-Russian border) and through Russia’s Far East into the Sea of Okhotsk—a journey of 4,444 kilometers (2,761 miles). It is the 10th longest river in the world and the third longest without a dam. Confined by mountains for most of its course, the river winds across a vast alluvial flood plain in its midsection, where it grows and shrinks dramatically throughout the year.

Water levels vary so much that the river’s minimum recorded flow is just 1 percent of its maximum recorded flow. Monsoon rains cause multiple floods each year, usually in July and August, when the river can expand up to 25 kilometers in width. Some years bring more extreme floods than others, and 2013 proved to be the most extreme yet. Unusually heavy rains raised parts of the river to their highest levels on record, forcing evacuations and claiming lives in both China and Russia.

Images courtesy of NASA.

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