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The tour from space now goes international, as in the next six pages we will look at scenes from five different continents to get a feel for the diversity of landscapes worldwide. On this page, Landsat images of parts of Canada will be examined.


The many Landsat images spread over the next 6 pages that comprise Part 2 of this Section have mostly been selected from the master set used in developing the 1976 NASA publication Mission to Planet Earth: Landsat Views the World, produced by the writer and three colleagues, using imagery acquired by Landsat 1. Scenes made by other earth-observing satellites and as photos on the ground are also used in this excursion The description associated with each Landsat image is extracted from the captions in that book; consult it, NASA SP-360 (residing in many libraries), for more extensive descriptions of the scenes reproduced in the following Tutorial pages. Recall, too, that you have already seen a number of foreign images, e.g., specifically, London, Paris, Florence, Peking, Tokyo and other cities on page 4-4 and the Game preceding this page in this Section.


Our trip to view examples of the Rest of the World begins in eastern Canada. Nova Scotia is the principal province in the Maritimes. This image shows the Cape Breton Peninsula, and parts of New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island, two other Provinces.

Cape Breton and surroundings; this 'island' contains low mountains.

Cape Breton boasts of the most rugged coastal scenery in the accessible eastern part of the North American continent. Its Cabot Trail is famed for its scenery. The writer waited 45 years to finally tour this region - and it rained!

Part of the west coast of Cape Breton, along the Cabot Trail.

The next scene covers some of the Eastern Townships in heavily forested (spruce; fir; pine; tamarack; birch; maple) hills in the Laurentian Lowlands of the Province of Quebec. The St. Lawrence River appears in the upper left and glacially-elongated lakes are scattered throughout the scene. The most striking feature throughout the image is a distinctive pattern of land-clearing by deforestation that stands out as elongate bars with jagged edges. Their lighter red color shows them to be grasslands. These long strips tend to be perpendicular to roads and small streams. They are a land use pattern brought over from France and adopted by the early French settlers (seigneurs) who colonized this region in the 1600s.

Heavily forested (and clearcut) hills of southern Quebec, not far from the northwest part of Maine.

Moving northward into an area where eastern Quebec meets the western boundary of the Labrador subprovince of Newfoundland, we see next a segment of the Canadian Shield. This is the Labrador Fold Belt, made up of tightly folded sedimentary rocks wedged between two granite complexes. The structures represent an ancient (Precambrian) tectonic zone formed when one irregular continental mass collided with a sedimentary basin; the entire region has been much eroded to form "roots of mountains". The present surface is strongly glaciated, leaving low hills and lakes. The high northern latitudes favor an arctic-like vegetation assemblage called tundra. This inhospitable landscape is very sparsely populated, with a few small towns build near iron mines.

) The Labrador Fold Belt in northeast Canada, a tundra landscape with muskeg.

Tundra again is typical of Canadian island surfaces well above the Arctic Circle. In this scene, the major land body is Melville Island, made up of Paleozoic sedimentary rocks and characterized by deep embayments that are valleys gouged out by continental glaciation of the Pleistocene, now occupied by the Arctic Sea which even in this July view is still completely frozen. Human life in this part of Canada’s Northwest Territories is limited to a few native villages (Eskimo types).

 Melville Island in northern Canada; the Arctic Sea is frozen at this time.

Winter still remains in this March scene in the Province of Manitoba just north of North Dakota. Dominating the scene is Winnipeg, appearing black against the light snow because of snow removal and melting in that large city. In the countryside, dark lines (cleared farm roads) block out squares that are one-mile sections (part of the Township-Range system of surveying) similar to those so prevalent in the Great Plains (the lowlands here are an extension of that physiographic unit into Canada). Lakes Manitoba (left-center edge) and Winnipeg (top center) are remnants of a once larger lake system that covered wide areas of the plains at the end of the Pleistocene ice age. The dark areas that extend over the right third of the scene are the western edge of the Precambrian Canadian Shield. Pine and spruce are the prevalent trees in this part of the Shield.

Winnipeg in the plains of Manitoba; the western edge of the Canadian Shield is to its east; the winter snow brings out the road pattern in the farmlands.

Most of Canada's cities lie in regions near the U.S-Canadian border. Its second largest city is Montreal, the capital of the Province of Quebec. Here is a Landsat image that shows Montreal and its surroundings. Note the elongated farms which follow the "long lot" style characteristic of France (and seen again around New Orleans).

Landsat subscene including Montreal, Quebec on the St. Lawrence River.

This SPOT-4 panchromatic image shows much of the central part of Montreal.

SPOT image of Montreal, Quebec, on the St. Lawrence River.

And here is this city as seen from the ground:

Montreal, Quebec, Canada.
Courtesy: Carolina Map Distributors

The writer (NMS) spent a very satisfying summer in Canada's capital, Ottawa (Ontario) visiting at the Dominion Observatory to work on shocked rock samples from the West Hawk Lake impact structure and other Canadian craters. Here is a Landsat 7 image of the western half of this city:

Part of Ottawa, Canada.

Walking on Carleton Road everyday the 3 miles to the Observatory, I passed the broad expanse of government experimental farms that stand out as red fields.

Now, a look at the border between the U.S. and Canada in eastern Montana. The borderline is sharply defined. Why? Not because of a fence but the result of different land use practices. The Americans have opened up the high plains to farming; the Canadians have left most of their side in its original state - grass-covered rolling swales.

Landsat full image of the U.S.-Canadian border in Montana.

The plains of Alberta contain two large cities - Calgary and Edmonton. The former is the oil capital of Canada. It lies less than 160 km (100 miles) from the east front of the Canadian Rocky Mountains (Rockies) which have constricted to a tectonic zone about 250 km wide. Banff and Lake Louise are famed resort towns in these mountains.

Panoramic view of Calgary and the Rockies to its west.

Space image extending from the Banff section of the Canadian Rockies to Calgary.

The rugged Canadian Rockies appear in this Landsat image, which shows a long, rather wide valley underlain by the Rocky Mountain Trench, a tectonic graben fault-bounded on both sides.

The Rocky Mountain Trench.

To one traveling on the Canadian Pacific scenic railroad route, the mountains of western Canada appear continuous. But the Rockies blend in with the wide expanse of the Coast Ranges. This Radarsat image shows these mountains, here traversed by the Columbia River just north of the U.S. border.

Radar image of the inland extension of the Coast Ranges of western Canada

This last image is a HCMM nighttime image covering much of southwestern Canada (swath width = 715 km [447 miles]). Starting in the upper right with part of the Rocky Mountain Trench, the terrain passes through inland hills and the mountains of the Coast Ranges (the black is cold nighttime snow), part of the Inland Passageway, and the northern half of Vancouver Island. Underneath this night expression of topograpy lie many tectonic terranes (see Section 17).

HCMM thermal night image of much of the mountain terrains of British Columbia.

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Primary Author: Nicholas M. Short, Sr. email: [email protected]