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Plumes of Dust Off Coast of Namib Desert, Namibia

23S 15.1E

June 17th, 2013 Category: Dust Storms MODISTerra

Namibia – June 17th, 2013

Plumes of dust blow southwestwardward off the coast of Namibia, by both the rocky, tan northern portion and the sandy, orange southern portion of the Namib Desert. In the full image, similar wispy plumes of dust can be seen much further southward along the coast, for much of the length of the sandy desert.

Environmental Issues Affecting Orange River, South Africa

28.6S 16.4E

February 16th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Rivers

South Africa – January 27th, 2013

Draining an area of just under 1million km2 or 77% of the land area of South Africa, the Orange River has its source in the Drakensberg mountains, but starts as the Senqu River in Lesotho. From here it flows westwards to the Atlantic Ocean. Here, it can be seen flowing more or less horizontally across the upper left quadrant of the image.

The headwaters are located at an altitude of 3300 m and consequently parts freeze in the winter months. After the town of Kimberly the river is joined by the Vaal river, its main tributary and from here it enters the arid region of the southern Kalahari and Namib desert. Dams along the river provide water for irrigation and hydropower, however because of the unpredictable flow and sand bar at the river mouth navigation is limited.

Given the length of the Orange River, combined with its range of altitude and climacteric zones, the basin covers a wide range of ecological systems, and can be regarded as being a linear oasis. Its bio-geographical isolation means that potential for re-colonisation from adjacent rivers and wetlands is very low. The river biota is therefore unusually susceptible to the permanent loss of species.

Its biomes contain a vast array of faunal and floral species variety with several endemic species. However, they also comprise areas facing environmental threats, such as the extinction of species and changes brought about by desertification. The economic utilisation of the Orange River’s water as well as the land use patterns in the basin strongly influences the environmental state of the river basin.

In this context four issues are of particular significance, namely the problem of soil erosion and wetland losses in Lesotho (the most severe problem), the impact of industrial and municipal effluent in the Vaal River system, agricultural pollution in the Vaal and Orange River and the environmental threats to the Orange River Estuary Ramsar site at the mouth (click here for more information).

Climate Change Creating Harsher Conditions in Namib Desert, Namibia

23S 15.1E

February 7th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Deserts

Namibia – January 27th, 2013

Living in the Namib desert was never easy due to extreme temperatures and sparse vegetation, but signs that climate change may be worsening the already harsh conditions in this area of desert have led to concern over how local farmers will water crops.

Namibia is the driest country in sub-Saharan Africa, with annual rainfall varying between 30 millimetres (1.2 inches) in the desert to as much as 500 millimetres in the extreme northeastern Caprivi Region. Climate change may already be making the situation worse, with increases in temperature of around 1.2 degrees Celsius observed.

According to scientists, in recent years, hot temperatures are getting hotter, hot days of above 35 degrees Celsius are becoming more frequent and the number of cold nights decreasing. Rainfall seasons are already starting later and ending earlier, affecting subsistence farmers who grow staple foods (click here to read more).

Mountains of Cape Fold Belt in South Africa’s Western Cape Region

33.9S 18.4E

May 16th, 2012 Category: Mountains, Rivers

South Africa - May 15th, 2012

Visible near the bottom of this image is the Western Cape region of South Africa, an area with great topographical diversity. Most of the province falls within the Cape Fold Belt, a range of sandstone folded mountains. The far interior forms part of the Karoo Basin and is generally arid and hilly with a sharp escarpment in the north. Coastal areas range from sandy between capes, to rocky to steep and mountainous in places. Located by the coast in the lower left quadrant are Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope.

Moving northwards, visible crossing the upper part of the image is the Orange River, appearing as a thick green line, despite what its name might suggest. Some sediments can be seen entering the Atlantic Ocean by the river’s mouth. The river forms part of the international borders between South Africa and Namibia and between South Africa and Lesotho, as well as several provincial borders within South Africa. Visible near the coast in Namibia, north of the river, is the southern part of the Namib Desert.

Phytoplankton Bloom West of Namib Desert, Namibia – May 7th, 2012

24S 13.4E

May 7th, 2012 Category: Deserts, Image of the day, Phytoplankton

Namibia - May 6th, 2012

A faint phytoplankton bloom hangs in the waters off the shores of Namibia. The bloom is situated west of the southern part of the Namib Desert, an immense dunefield with tall, orange sand dunes. Phytoplankton blooms are common in this area due to the mixing of hot and cold ocean currents.

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