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Exquisite photos of Alaska's 'hidden' forests

Courtesy: NASA

Courtesy: NASA

Cheryl Santa Maria
Digital Reporter

Tuesday, July 29, 2014, 4:03 PM - There's a massive forest in the centre of Alaska -- and NASA technology has captured it with incredible detail.

"The U.S. Forest Service Inventory and Analysis program—the largest network of forest inventory plots in the world—does not include 450,000 square kilometers of forest in the interior of Alaska simply because it is so difficult to reach,” says Doug Morton, a scientist based at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Maryland, in a statement.

That -- according to NASA -- is an area larger than the entire state of California, which is about 404,000 square kilometers.

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Now, researchers can get up close and personal with this relatively unexplored expanse of land in Alaska. NASA has recently released the detailed images these so-called 'hidden' forests, as seen on July 10, 2014.

The images were captured during a six-week mission which will wrap up in August.

Researchers from NASA and the U.S. Forest Service are flying over the remote area at a low altitude in a small airplane equipped with a portable imaging system that can capture high-res photographs.

When the mission wraps up, scientists will be using the images to create a more detailed map of Alaska's forests.

NASA says that by flying just 335 metres above the ground, they're able to capture images that space satellites can't see.

"We are getting photographs at ten centimeter resolution and science data ... at one meter resolution," said Morton.

The team says the images will help scientists track how Alaska's forests are adapting to climate change and wildfire activity.

"As the planet warms, we may see generalized greening in low-resolution satellite imagery, but what’s driving the greening? Are mosses replacing forests as wetlands dry out, or are woody plants increasing in abundance? These are the kinds of questions we can answer with a combination of satellite data and high-res aerial imagery," Morton said.


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