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Lake Eyre, Australia, Very Sensitive to Climate Change and Fluctuations in Rainfall

February 9th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes, Salt Flats

Australia – January 27th, 2013

Lake Eyre, a great salt lake of tectonic origin, lies asymmetrically in the south-western corner of the closed inland drainage basin in the heart of the Australian continent. Here, it appears as an irregularly shaped white area southwest of the image center.

With an area of 1,140,000 km2, Lake Eyre Basin is the largest Australian drainage division apart from the Western Plateau and is one of the largest areas of internal drainage in the world. The lake, whose lowest parts lie 15.2 m below sea level, consists of two sections. Lake Eyre North, 144 km long and 77 km wide, is joined by the narrow Goyder Channel to Lake Eyre South, which is 64 km long and 24 km in width. Not so long ago it was considered to be permanently dry, but the last forty years have witnessed some twenty flood events.

The vast catchment areas of the lakes are only marginally desert and as such are very responsive to even slight variations of rainfall. Considering the long term trends of climatic change is therefore essential. Almost all the non-desert parts of the Lake Eyre Basin area are used for low-intensity grazing of sheep for wool and beef cattle. The very variable rainfall is the most important factor for provision of feed, and low rainfall seasons determine stocking rates (click here for more information).

Fires Northwest of Lake Eyre, Australia

25.8S 134.1E

October 21st, 2012 Category: Fires

Australia – October 17th, 2012

Fires northwest of Lake Eyre, Australia (visible upon opening the full image as a white expanse of salt flats in the lower right quadrant) are several wildfires. The fire releasing the thickest plume of smoke, which fans out towards the southwest, is the one located closest to the lake, though other smaller blazes can be observed at the top center.

Salt Flats of Lake Eyre, Australia

28.1S 137.2E

April 9th, 2012 Category: Lakes, Salt Flats

Australia - April 9th, 2012

During years of especially high rainfall, all the riverbeds in the vast, mostly flat, arid and semi-arid areas of Australia lead inland towards Lake Eyre in central South Australia. Most of the water reaching Lake Eyre comes from the river systems of semi-arid inland Queensland, roughly 1000 kilometres to the north.

Lake Eyre itself lies approximately 16 metres below sea level, and usually contains only salt. In flood years it fills and for a short time undergoes a period of rapid growth and fertility: long-dormant marine creatures multiply and large flocks of waterfowl arrive to feed and raise their young before the waters evaporate once more. Here, the lake appears mostly dry and salty, as evidenced by the white coloring.

Channel Country Rivers, Simpson Desert and Lake Eyre, Australia

26S 137.2E

April 5th, 2012 Category: Deserts, Lakes, Rivers

Australia - April 4th, 2012

This images stretches across Australia’s Channel Country to the bright red sands of the Simpson Desert (left edge, above) and the white salt flats by Lake Eyre (lower left quadrant). Channel Country gets its name from the numerous intertwined rivulets that cross the region, which cover 150,000 km².

The region is located mostly in the state of Queensland but also in portions of South Australia, Northern Territory and New South Wales. It features an arid landscape with a series of ancient flood plains from rivers which only flow intermittently. The principal rivers are Georgina River, Cooper Creek and the Diamantina River. When there is sufficient rainfall in their catchment area these rivers flow into Lake Eyre, South Australia.

Seasonal Salt Pans of Lake Eyre, Australia – December 11th, 2011

28.1S 137.2E

December 11th, 2011 Category: Image of the day, Lakes, Salt Flats

Australia - December 11th, 2011

Lake Eyre is the lowest point in Australia, at approximately 15 m (49 ft) below sea level, and, on the rare occasions that it fills, it is the largest lake in Australia and 18th largest in the world. It is located in the deserts of central Australia, in northern South Australia.

The Eyre Basin is a large endorheic system surrounding the lakebed, the lowest part of which is filled with the characteristic salt pan caused by the seasonal expansion and subsequent evaporation of the trapped waters. Even in the dry season there is usually some water remaining in Lake Eyre, normally collecting in a number of smaller sub-lakes within its margins.

During the rainy season the rivers from the north-east part of the Lake Eyre basin (in outback (south-west and central) Queensland) flow towards the lake through the Channel Country. The amount of water from the monsoon determines whether water will reach the lake and if it does, how deep the lake will get.

In recent years, the 2009 Lake Eyre flood peaked at 1.5 m (5 ft) deep in late May which is a quarter of its maximum recorded depth of 6 m (20 ft). In 2010, the high rainfall in summer sent flood water into the Diamantina, Georgina and Cooper Creek catchments of the Lake Eyre basin, with the Cooper Creek reaching the lake for the first time since 1990. In 2011, heavy rain in early March filled the southern end of the lake, with the north of the usually-dry salt pan about 75 per cent covered with water continuing to inflow from local creeks.