North Dakota’s ‘boom’ from space

For all the billions of dollars the U.S. and other nations have poured into the International Space Station, NASA certainly is spending a lot of time issuing “isn’t this cool?” videos. And, the space agency is right; this is cool.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael König on Vimeo.

But a few weeks ago I went looking for images from space of the Bakken oil field in North Dakota, to see what it looks like from space, given the boomtown nature of things there and the concerns about how much planetary scarring is going on there.

Good luck trying to find images. NASA doesn’t have any sort of decent system for reviewing relevant imagery from the space station, even though it passes over us on a regular basis.

But Ken Paulman at Midwest Energy News was on the ball by taking a long look at the “cool” video that NASA put out…


The image Paulman pulled from the video certainly presents a compelling view of how big the oil fields are and, given that some of that light may be caused by the burning of natural gas, what sort of impact the entire operation is having on terra firma.

Here’s what a few of those dots of light are…

It’s an area under siege. Today, for example, Forum Communications reports that the demand for health care services is beyond what the area can handle.

“We just were not equipped for the influx of young people and families,” Matt Grimshaw, chief executive of Mercy Medical Center, told the news organization.

Trauma cases run the gamut: burns, falls, explosions, chemical inhalations, crushing injuries, traffic accidents. It’s not uncommon for Trinity’s helicopter air ambulance to make three or four runs a day, Sather said.

Also, three of every four burn transfers from North Dakota to Minneapolis are transports from Trinity, Sather said.

Williston’s Mercy Medical Center illustrates the dilemmas of growth that have become common among health providers in the Oil Patch.

Only three years ago, the health center’s hospital downsized to a 25-bed critical access facility to address what administrators then predicted would be a dwindling and aging population.

Now construction is under way for a 40,000 square-foot expansion to handle outpatient services, including same-day surgery, as well as a new birthing center and two new surgery suites.

Combined, urgent care and emergency room visits have doubled in the past three years, Grimshaw said.

That’s something you can’t see from space.