January 7, 1999 Scientists studying the aftermath of Hurricane
Georges on coastal areas
and other wetlands losses in Louisiana are now able to use NASA
images obtained with NOAA's guidance to help understand where
sand moved and how vegetation was impacted by salt water on two
Louisiana coastal barrier islands and the Atchafalaya River Delta.
Images of the Chandeleur Island chain are of particular interest
to scientists because of the severe damage inflicted by Hurricane
Georges in October of last year.
The images were gathered by the AirborneVisible/Infrared Imaging
Spectrometer (AVIRIS), an instrument that was built and is managed
by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, Calif. The instrument
measures 224 spectral channels, which can give scientists a highly
detailed look at what is happening on the surface in ways that
are invisible to the naked eye. A NOAA
Corps flight crew and aircraft flew the instrument over the
Chandeleur Island chain in late October.
damage from Hurricane Georges on the Chandeleurs was as bad as
that of Hurricane Camille almost 30 years ago," said Dr.
Shea Penland, a scientist at the University of New Orleans. "Having
the chance to use imagery from the AVIRIS scanner gives us a
great opportunity to understand the full extent of the hurricane's
damage and look at ways to deal with the damage. The AVIRIS data
are so rich in imagery and the resolution is so good that we
have for the first time the ability to completely characterize
the land cover on Louisiana s barrier islands."
"Imaging spectroscopy is a technique that represents a fundamentally
new way of doing remote-sensing," said Robert Green, the
AVIRIS experiment scientist at JPL. "We are measuring in
detail how light is absorbed or reflected by various materials
on the Earth's surface and that gives us an accurate picture
of what those materials on the ground are made of and how the
surface is changing."
NOAA and University scientists believe they will be able to use
the imagery to study Louisiana's coastal wetlands, such as the
Chandeleurs, to gain a much better understanding how they function
and react to outside forces such as storms. People who live on
or near the Louisiana bayous protected by these barrier islands,
along with those who make their living from the bountiful natural
resources of the Mississippi delta, will be the ultimate beneficiaries
of the information that is expected to be gained from this extensive
"Normally, AVIRIS is flown by NASA at an altitude of 20
kilometers (~70,000 feet) to acquire images," said Commander
Grady Tuell, Project Manager of the Remote Sensing Division of
NOAA's National Geodetic Survey.
"However, both NOAA and NASA felt the instrument could be
a very important diagnostic tool if flown at low altitudes and
over areas such as the Chandeleurs. At 10,000 feet, the resolution
is very high."
AVIRIS imagery obtained of the Atchafalaya Delta depict a large
tract of newly created wetlands from the recently completed Big
Island/Atchafalaya Sediment Delivery Projects. The projects were
built with funding from the Coastal Wetlands Planning Protection,
and Restoration Act (The Breaux Act). The two projects created
over 900 acres of new wetlands in the Atchafalaya Delta. These
are important habitat for marine fisheries and migratory waterfowl.
"We see AVIRIS as a tremendous new tool for evaluating the
results of our restoration projects," said Rolland Schmitten,
director of NOAA Fisheries, the federal marine fisheries agency
responsible for protecting and maintaining marine resources.
The AVIRIS imagery will also be offered to other scientists conducting
coastal habitat research on a wide variety of issues, including
marine fish habitat conservation and coastal wetlands restoration.
The University will receive the AVIRIS imagery from NOAA and
JPL and will serve as a technical information center in the analysis
of the storms' impact on the Chandeleur Island chain using the
data from the scanner. The public can view some of the imagery
on the Internet at: http://makalu.jpl.nasa.gov
(Click on AVIRIS Low Altitude Deployment and look for images
of Chandeleur, Timbalier, and Atchafalaya Bay on the Quicklook
"It is a wonderful opportunity
for the University of New Orleans to be able to acquire this
world class high technology system that will enable our university
researchers to partner with national scientists at NOAA and JPL
and other environmental experts to study Louisiana's coastal
islands and wetlands," said University of New Orleans Chancellor
Gregory O'Brien. "In cooperation with other university and
community partners, this unique collaborative effort will ultimately
help us to protect and ensure the viability of our priceless
natural resources by dealing with the ravaging effects of natural