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Let's Make Like a Tree: and Leaf [Leave] hahaha!
August 10, 2011 12:14 AM   Subscribe

What am I seeing here? In lush green west New York state?

It looks like a 30 year old Mt St Helens photo.

The trunks look black and deforested, but v.green from a few satellite clicks above. Have the trees been chopped down / harvested? Fire? Drought?

Is it weeds that make it look so green if you zoom out a click or two? Why does it look so green when you zoom out?
posted by uncanny hengeman to Science & Nature (25 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
 
I think it was photographed in winter, so the trees have no leaves.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 12:22 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Um, when I zoom out on that, despite the fact that the address is in NY, the location you've linked to seems to be Pennsylvania.
posted by dubitable at 12:25 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


Sections of the area photographed at a different time of year than others. This is a mid-winter sunny day: tree trunks, no leaves, long shadows; since the spruce that stand here and there are full green, the bareness is not (for example) the result of a forest fire.
The low-res section to the left of this selection, including the valley with the main road, was done during summer.
posted by Namlit at 12:34 AM on August 10, 2011


Whatever. Pennsylvania, Transylvania. Thanks dubitable.

Chocolate Pickle... Trees have no leaves. Check. So why does it look so green from above? Weeds?
posted by uncanny hengeman at 12:37 AM on August 10, 2011


Well, since the path is green as well, it appears that they have tinkered with the color to create a match with the surrounding bits. Forest floors might be mossy (they sure are here in Sweden), but around bare trees in winter, one would at least expect brown leaves on the ground.
posted by Namlit at 12:44 AM on August 10, 2011


Switching back and forth to map mode with terrain enabled seems to show that the barest areas are heading up to and along the ridgelines, which would very much suggest fire.

I know very little about northern hemisphere deciduous trees, but the pattern of black bark and green growth close in trunks/main branches is typical of first/second season regrowth after fire in eucalypt forest here in Australia.

Fire, some time, some rain, and a bit of regrowth might also explain the green forest floor. Bush fires dump a tonne of ash (ie fertilizer), burn weed retarding leaf litter, and open up the ground to light and warmth, so after the first rains, grass grows where it usually wouldn't. That said, it does look a bit photoshoppy.
posted by Ahab at 1:55 AM on August 10, 2011


Whatever. Pennsylvania, Transylvania

heh funny you should say that

and that's totally a forest in winter shot. It made me think of the aerial photos of the ski club I went to as a kid that were hung up around the chalet.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 2:05 AM on August 10, 2011


Sections of the area photographed at a different time of year than others.

Sometimes they use different files at different zoom levels, too. I often see an abrupt color change when zooming in and out. (Not so much on this one, just FYI.)
posted by Bruce H. at 3:31 AM on August 10, 2011


5_13_23_42_69_666, I pinched it off Homer Simpson. I'm a bit dark at myself for not thinking of it independently [or accidentally] like I'm sure a lot of people have.

Getting back to the subject y'all... the sum of your answers is looking like "best answer" but I might just wait another 24 hours. I'm an Aussie and our natural forrests stay green all year 'round so I'm not used to this "it's winter" scenario. Plus the tree trunks looked black.

And on preview, two of my state's most famous explorers' surname was Forrest and there are a lot of streets / localities named after them and to this day I often misspell forest so I thought I'd leave in the above spelling mistake for local / historical reasons. A bit like your stupid trees that lose their leaves each winter. 
posted by uncanny hengeman at 4:26 AM on August 10, 2011


The satellite view in Google maps has some sort of color enhancement so that suburban and forested areas look solidly green when zoomed out, agricultural areas look brown, denser urban areas are grayish, contours are enhanced, deserts are tan, etc. Look at this location, for example, an area I'm reasonably familiar with. At this level of zoom, the urban/suburban areas are green and the farms are brown, but there's a level of contrast between contiguous farm fields that just ain't natural. Zoom in one level and you get 3 separate colorization zones, one green, one brown, and one semi-natural. It's possible that the green/pale contrast is due to summer/winter differences (here's a good shot of a shift from a high res winter shot on one street to a lower-res summer shot on the next). But again, that brown just ain't natural.

As Namlit points out, your best clue in your map is that even the fire road is green.
posted by drlith at 4:31 AM on August 10, 2011


could it be an area recently hit by a forest fire?
posted by Flood at 4:45 AM on August 10, 2011


there haven't been a forest fire in that area for years, more than likely a google map error to color the area green to match surrounding pics.
- Tim
posted by fozzie33 at 4:54 AM on August 10, 2011


GoogleMaps doesn't necessarily use the same images at every zoom level. You can actually see it change images around a third of the way out. So the closer images were taken during winter, and the farther images during summer or whatever.
posted by valkyryn at 5:19 AM on August 10, 2011


You can see the same area in real color on Bing maps here.
posted by sanka at 6:23 AM on August 10, 2011


Sanka has it, and now I vote for "forest fire".
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 6:55 AM on August 10, 2011


Do a little scrolling around on the Bing map, and it looks like early spring . . . grass is green, some trees have full leaves, others are just starting, and some are bare.
posted by fimbulvetr at 7:36 AM on August 10, 2011


If it makes you feel better, I was just in Wharton last weekend, and I can tell you that all of the trees that I saw were quite lush.

Zero cell phone reception, though.
posted by Wild_Eep at 8:02 AM on August 10, 2011


Could you be seeing something like Palmerton, Pennsylvania's Blue Mountain Superfund Site? It's an astounding place where zinc smelter contamination killed off all the trees, then killed all of the microbes that would help the trees decay. This was problematic because without root systems the highly contaminated soil was eroding down the mountain and spreading.

The superfund site has managed to stabilize soils by using sewage sludge mats to grow stabilizing plants... but as I recall they'd removed the trees in those areas, too. Still, looks like Blue Mountain in a lot of ways.

[Fun aside - I went there with an environmental group and a bunch of people from the former Soviet Union. The former soviets were all, "yeah, dead mountain", while we USians were all, "is this in my country? We kill whole mountains now and it's ok???". Also there are a Ton of tomato seeds in sewage sludge, and they grow great up there.]
posted by ldthomps at 8:18 AM on August 10, 2011 [1 favorite]


If those black lines are downed trees, why do so many of them lie at right angles to the ones adjacent? it almost looks like fracture joints in a limestone bed. There is a lot of limestone in both western NY and in PA, but it seems unlikely that the joint pattern would be so pronounced over such a wide area. Since the Bing photo doesn't show that pattern, I think it's some kind of processing artifact produced by Google, along with the uniform green color.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 10:20 AM on August 10, 2011


If those black lines are downed trees, why do so many of them lie at right angles to the ones adjacent? said above. Looong winter shadows.
posted by Namlit at 10:40 AM on August 10, 2011


Okay, misread "downed". I don't believe in the forest fire and dead theories. Those are standing winter trees.
Also, it seems that fozzie33 knows a little more about just that area, so why no believe them?
posted by Namlit at 10:45 AM on August 10, 2011


Looong winter shadows.

At right angles? How does that work?

Also, what did I say that disagreed with fozzie33?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 11:49 AM on August 10, 2011


Looong winter shadows.

At right angles? How does that work?


Photos taken just after sunrise, if the shadows point west. You can see if you pan around that image that the shadows change across terrain, because the aerial photographs were taken at different times. Terrain itself will also effect the angle we see shadows if the ground is not flat.

Since the Bing photo doesn't show that pattern, I think it's some kind of processing artifact produced by Google, along with the uniform green color.

Well, the Bing map and the google are not in the exact same place, it seems. However, the Bing photo does show winter trees with shadows at right angles; again you have to pan around.
posted by oneirodynia at 1:58 PM on August 10, 2011


OK, now I see trees. I think I need to clean the screen on that other computer ...
posted by Kirth Gerson at 4:49 PM on August 10, 2011


Just taking a guess that was best answer. Never thought of shadows.

On my 5th attempt of randomly zooming in I got exactly the same pic but brown - not green - back ground.
posted by uncanny hengeman at 6:00 PM on August 10, 2011


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