About those photos showing the North Dakota oil fields as bright as Minneapolis…

…they are bogus.


6/10 – Say Anything Blog – UND Researchers Debunk “Inaccurately Derived” Satellite Images of North Dakota Flaring – Remember that satellite photo about two years ago showing the Bakken oil fields almost as bright as Minneapolis and spread over a larger area than the twin cities metro?

Now that the researchers point this out, I’ll mention that if you have been in Western North Dakota anytime in the last five years you will never mistake it for an urban area where there is a streetlight every 50 feet with a strip shopping center every half mile.

When I’ve been there, you can scan the horizon at night and see in the distance a few drilling rigs and one or two dozen tiny flares. That would be the distance of 2 or 3 miles you can see in every direction.

Well, two researchers at UND have found the photos were, um, cooked.


Exaggerated by factor of 100 according to the report.

The sensors used to generate the image picked up visible light plus near infrared wavelengths. The image was then

highly processed, manipulated, and often amplified 100×.

In other words, western North Dakota is not and has never been lit up by flaring like some major urban center.

The full report is called Bakken Flares and Satellite Images – The Science and the Facts.

There are multiple factors overstating the amount of light. One of the manipulation tools is something called “light saturation”. The authors illustrated this by taking a picture of a 75 watt incandescent bulb and another picture of a candle. The light filled the center of each picture equally, and you could see most of the picture had some residual light in it. They almost looked comparable even though one had a lumen output of 1000 and the other a lumen output of 1. Visually they look sort of similar in the photo even though there is a difference in output by a factor of 1000.

Check out the images developed by the researchers using sensors that pick up light sources in the wavelength of combustion. You can vaguely see the Bakken region, which has a teeny tiny fraction of the light of Minneapolis.

Hmmm…I wonder why the images were manipulated?

As for motivation, keep in mind these photos showing more light in the Balkan than all of Minneapolis were used as an argument to constrain production by restricting flaring. The goal? Seems to me it was to cut back oil drilling and production.

It always amazes me how much data can be manipulated and distorted when people put their heart into it.

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