For all the billions of dollars the U.S. and other nations have poured into the International Space Station, NASA certainly is spending a lot of time issuing "isn't this cool?" videos. And, the space agency is right; this is cool.
But a few weeks ago I went looking for images from space of the Bakken oil field in North Dakota, to see what it looks like from space, given the boomtown nature of things there and the concerns about how much planetary scarring is going on there.
Good luck trying to find images. NASA doesn't have any sort of decent system for reviewing relevant imagery from the space station, even though it passes over us on a regular basis.
But Ken Paulman at Midwest Energy News was on the ball by taking a long look at the "cool" video that NASA put out...
The image Paulman pulled from the video certainly presents a compelling view of how big the oil fields are and, given that some of that light may be caused by the burning of natural gas, what sort of impact the entire operation is having on terra firma.
Here's what a few of those dots of light are...
It's an area under siege. Today, for example, Forum Communications reports that the demand for health care services is beyond what the area can handle.
"We just were not equipped for the influx of young people and families," Matt Grimshaw, chief executive of Mercy Medical Center, told the news organization.
Trauma cases run the gamut: burns, falls, explosions, chemical inhalations, crushing injuries, traffic accidents. It's not uncommon for Trinity's helicopter air ambulance to make three or four runs a day, Sather said.
Also, three of every four burn transfers from North Dakota to Minneapolis are transports from Trinity, Sather said.
Williston's Mercy Medical Center illustrates the dilemmas of growth that have become common among health providers in the Oil Patch.
Only three years ago, the health center's hospital downsized to a 25-bed critical access facility to address what administrators then predicted would be a dwindling and aging population.
Now construction is under way for a 40,000 square-foot expansion to handle outpatient services, including same-day surgery, as well as a new birthing center and two new surgery suites.
Combined, urgent care and emergency room visits have doubled in the past three years, Grimshaw said.
That's something you can't see from space.
What you also can't see from space is the impact a huge housing shortage has on those whose income is not dependent on the oil boom.
In the flooded out Minot, ND, even the relatively well paid officers in the Air Force are suffering. My fiance was renting a 2 bedroom apartment that was flooded this year. He lost nearly all of his furniture (no where to move it too), his BAH, and has essentially be homeless, living with various different friends for months. With a still signed lease, he planned to move back in once his landlord finished rebuilding. However, just days before he planned to go back, he found out the rent was nearly doubling to almost $2,000 a month. Far more than he receives from the military for housing. He had to break his lease and scramble to find another group of friends to live with. When we get married in June, I have no idea where we will live. Even the base housing is crunched from space, with the waiting list to live there stretching into a year and a half. It is despicable that those who give up so much to serve their country, who have already lost so much due to the flood, are basically forced into homelessness.
MPR has a great article up now about how the rising rent and housing crisis here is affecting seniors and forcing them to move out - what it doesn't cover is all the other, important community members who can no longer afford to live there. This includes everyone from Minot State University employees, teachers, state workers, members of the military, city employees, and many more people who are essential for a healthy, vital community but who are not seeing significant increases in pay to keep pace with the outrageous increase in the cost of living in their communities.
I did not care for the snide tone of this MPR blog post. Additionally, it's virtually information free. If the author had taken the time to contact NASA, he would have found the PR people would be bending over backwards to hook him up with the imagery he needed, and scientists and technicians to help him interpret it. Surely MPR can do better than this.
Thanks for writing, Leo. NASA PR was contacted.
The response of the director of the office was,"I’m not aware of any NASA images on that subject."
The reference was to the difficulty via NASA's online image gallery of locating images. I'm sorry, but it's just not very good by 2011 standards. Ideally, one would be able to enter a search term for a geographic area, and then see the most recent images from that area, sortable by acquisition date.
Presently, earth images are sortable by month, as long as the month is sometime before 2007.
The PR Department did refer me to this site, which is a little bit better -- and least you can sort of find images by location -- but there is poor metadata associated with the image (no date, for example).
Sorry you didn't find the post interesting. A lot of other people seemed surprised to see the oil sands show up so brightly. The post was for them. As I'm sure you're aware, it's not my job or MPR's job to boost the NASA image by pretending something is what it isn't, and that would be the case were I to say the NASA imagery is easily obtained and analyzed by the population.
The Bakken field turns up again twice in this same video. There’s a considerably better view of it at 02:50 with Lake Fort Peck nicely illuminated by moonlight. It’s visible again on the far left at 04:08 but worse than either of the earlier cases. The lights correlate very nicely with drilling locations.
The lights here cannot be easily interpreted. They certainly reprsent "economic activity" but that's about it.
I found this article to be both interesting and informative! I knew about the housing crunch but not the lack of medical facilities and trained medical personnel in the area.
It isnt a megacity at all. It is the natural gas being wasted into the atmosphere. Obama should negotiate that the natural gas heats the homes of all ND and MT, as well as, lots of negotiations on the oil from the export Keystone pipeline, such as Americans getting a better deal on that oil than wall street and foreign investors.
sorry, cell phones just arent as predictable as labtops!