A River Runs Red

While looking through the recent imagery updates we came across this story about a river in Russia that turned red. DigitalGlobe captured some imagery of the location, including both a colour image and a black and white image, captured on the same day. Unfortunately, Google Earth has a problem that we have previously discussed in that if two overlapping images are captured on the same day, it is impossible to see the image that has been overlapped. In this case, the black and white image has been placed on top of the colour image and since we are specifically looking for colour, this is a problem.

Nickel producer Norilsk Nickel initially denied claims that its nearby metal processing plant was to blame, but later admitted responsibility. A look at the satellite imagery of the area in Google Earth makes it abundantly clear that the plant is responsible, and that the red colour has been leaking for years. There are actually two different streams leading away from the waste water pool and both show clear signs of discoloration. It is not clear from the articles about it which of the streams are in the photos.

The location as seen in Landsat / Sentinel-2 imagery

The stream that runs south of the waste water pool as seen in DigitalGlobe imagery. The water colour appears to vary between green, yellow and brown. But colours in satellite imagery are not always accurate.

The stream that runs north of the waste water pool. The water itself looks a muddy greenish, but the sand is clearly stained red.

To see the above locations in Google Earth download this KML file.

About Timothy Whitehead

Timothy has been using Google Earth since 2004 when it was still called Keyhole before it was renamed Google Earth in 2005 and has been a huge fan ever since. He is a programmer working for Red Wing Aerobatx and lives in Cape Town, South Africa.


  1. That’s a great find.

    That article and the company’s claims are just funny. I’d love to know more info about their “filtration” dam and how it does filtering. They may have a “filtering” pipe as well.. it looks like most of the length of that pipe is leaking which seems kind of strange so I wonder if that’s possibly intentional.

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