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Beautifully Unfortunate

Lake Winnipeg, Manitoba

Credit: NextGen Environmental Research Inc. Contains modified Copernicus Sentinel-2 data, processed by ESA

Dr. Paul M. Cooley, NextGen Environmental Research Inc.

Only a satellite image can paint a picture this big that captures the beauty of today's natural landscape and the ill effects of more than a century of watershed development and tie it all up in a moment.

This image speaks volumes about the magnitude of harmful algal blooms on Lake Winnipeg, the world's 12th largest lake. We have settled, developed, and benefitted greatly from the Lake Winnipeg watershed. Yet, for most, this image conjures up feelings of beauty and alarm at the same moment, leaving us to ponder and realize that many things in life have two opposing sides. When we see something that we should not, no matter how beautiful, that moment of uneasy pause can be an awakening.

Many astronauts have said that seeing Earth from space changed the way they think about how we should treat our planet. For the rest of us, satellite images enable us to observe Earth in beautiful and important ways that, hopefully, will help us to find balance with our environment sooner.

This satellite image reveals a beautiful and unfortunate imbalance. Now, we all are witness to a call for action.

Sentinel-2 natural colour composite of the north basin was captured , at 10-metre resolution. Green areas are algal blooms. Dark areas are relatively clear water. Bright water areas are strongly reflective due to suspended sediments near the surface. Sediment plumes leave the lake through Two-Mile Channel and Playgreen Lake, heading north towards the Nelson River and Hudson Bay.

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