Earth Snapshot RSS Feed Twitter

Archive for Salt Flats

Climate Change’s Impacts on Lake Poopó, Bolivia: Reduced Area and Biodiversity – July 1st, 2013

18.7S 67W

July 1st, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Lakes, Salt Flats VIIRSSuomi-NPP

Bolivia – June 28th, 2013

Visible high on the Bolivian altiplano are the green waters of Lake Poopó and the bright white surface of the Salar de Uyuni. Lake Poopó’s area has decreased by 50% in the last 25 years, with serious consequences for the populations of resident and migratory waterbirds.

The lake is located at approximately 3700 m above sea level, covering an approximate area of 967,000 ha, making it the second biggest lake in Bolivia, after Lake Titicaca (visible in the upper part of the full image), which is shared with Peru. However, in only 25 years its area has decreased by about 17,400 ha, representing almost 50% of its total area.

The decrease in the wetland’s area of open water has been attributed principally to climate change, which, in conjunction with current hydrological conditions (high rates of evaporation, low rainfall, and low flow rates of the rivers flowing into the lake), mean that water levels in the lake are not rising. This has had serious impacts on the biodiversity which depends on the wetland, given that the salinity has increased, thus decreasing survival rates of some species, with subsequent consequences in the local economy.

The change in size of the wetland has represented a considerable loss of available habitat for migratory bird species, for which the lake represents an important habitat, especially during the dry season (May to September), coinciding with the southern winter. However, drastic decreases in the populations of these species have been detected since 2007. Preliminary results suggest that the reason for this decline is the loss of available habitat as a result of the reduced area of Lake Poopó, and the accumulation of solid waste around the shores of the lake (click here for more information).


Etosha Pan, Namibia, and Fires in Angola

17.2S 14.0E

June 6th, 2013 Category: Salt Flats VIIRSSuomi-NPP

Namibia – June 4th, 2013

Visible in the lower part of this image, in northern Namibia, is the Etosha Pan. Once a lake, the pan gradually dried up through evaporation 2 to 10 million years ago when climatic changes and topographic movements caused the Kunene river to change its course, and to flow into the Atlantic Ocean. Now, the Etosha Pan is a stark, seemingly endless depression of pale greenish-white clay, silt and mineral salts, all baking under the fierce sun. Visible to the north, in Angola, are what appear to be two plumes of smoke from fires.

In living history, the Etosha Pan has never been filled with water, although in years of good rainfall, several tributaries of the Kunene river, such as the Oshigambo and the Ekuma in northwest and the Omuramba Ovambo in the east, drain into it, causing partial flooding and attracting thousands of flamingoes and other wading birds. The water, though, can be as much as two times saltier than sea water is, and therefore generally unfit for animal consumption.

Climate Change and the Etosha Pan, Namibia

18.7S 16.4E

May 30th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Salt Flats

Namibia – May 30th, 2013

Etosha National Park in northern Namibia, one of Africa’s major wildlife sanctuaries, is home to the critically endangered black rhinoceros. Climate change threatens biodiversity in the park and elsewhere in Africa, and a warmer, drier climate in Namibia could put tourism at risk.

Temperatures in Namibia have been rising at three times the global average rate for the twentieth century, and scientists expect the climate to continue to become hotter and drier—which could reduce the range and number of wildlife supported by Etosha. If we do nothing to reduce our heat-trapping emissions, Etosha faces a net loss of around eight species of mammals by 2050.

Climate Change and Botswana’s Rainfall and Temperatures – May 10th, 2013

20.6S 25.3E

May 10th, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Image of the day, Rivers, Salt Flats

Botswana – May 10th, 2013

This image shows two important areas of Botswana: the Okavango Delta (upper left) and the Makgadikgadi Pans (right). It is predicted that Botswana will become hotter over the next few decades, with an expected increase of 2°C by 2050—a rate of warming of 0.27°C per decade. It is also predicted that the spatial and temporal distribution of rainfall will be disrupted by climate change.

By 2050 there will be an annual decrease in rainfall of 5 percent in the northern and western regions of the country, while southeastern regions are expected to experience a 5 percent increase in annual rainfall. During the rainfall seasons, it is expected that there will be a 10–20 percent increase during the peak rainfall months (December to February), while other months will yield reduced rainfall. The rainy season will be shorter and less reliable due to climate change, and it is expected that most rain will fall as short, sharp events. It is expected that an increase in temperature would equal an increase in the rates of evaporation and transpiration (click here for more information).

Cluster of Wildfires in Angola

16.3S 17.4E

April 29th, 2013 Category: Fires, Salt Flats

Namibia and Angola – April 29th, 2013

A cluster of wildfires can be seen just north of the border between Angola (above) and Namibia (below). While other fires can be seen scattered about the region, indicated by red and yellow markers here, the cluster of fires near the border is releasing a thick cloud of smoke easily observed in the image thumbnail. Also of note, by the bottom edge, are the white salt flats of the Etosha Pan.