Earthshots: Satellite images of environmental change – Three Gorges Dam, China




Earthshots introduces remote sensing by showing examples of how environmental changes look from space.

The Three Gorges Dam in the Hubei province of China is a huge but highly criticized project. It’s difficult to deny the value of hydropower as an alternative energy source to coal, but the project has possibly caused unintended consequences.

The Three Gorges Dam is about 594 feet (181 meters) tall and 7,770 feet (2,335 meters) long. The Three Gorges Reservoir extends 370 miles (600 kilometers) along the Yangtze River upstream from the dam. At full capacity, the reservoir has a surface water area of over 417 square miles (1,080 square kilometers).

The name “Three Gorges” refers to the narrow gorges that the Yangtze River flows through in this mountainous region: the Qutang, Wu, and Xiling gorges. Construction began in 1992, and the reservoir began filling in June 2003. In 2012, it became the world’s largest hydroelectric power plant, with a generating capacity of 22,500 megawatts, over 3 times that of the Grand Coulee Dam and 20 times that of Hoover Dam.

Landsat imagery displays the construction of the dam, and the reservoir filling behind the dam.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type Dataset
Publication Subtype Website
Title Earthshots: Satellite images of environmental change – Three Gorges Dam, China
Year Published 2016
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Contributing office(s) Earth Resources Observation and Science (EROS) Center
Description HTML Document
Country China
State Hubei
Other Geospatial Three Gorges Dam
Online Only (Y/N) N
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N