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Traces of Humankind – South Africa

30.2S 24.6E

July 3rd, 2013 Category: Earth Observation, Snapshots VIIRS/MODISSuomi-NPP/Aqua

South Africa – July 1st, 2013

VIIRS – Night Visible Image

MODIS – True-Color Image

Satellite images are an incredible tool to assess the health status of the Earth.

However, while macro-effects of human activities are clearly evident (i.e. deforestation, oil spill, etc.), the real impact of mankind on our Planet was not always easy to identify from Space.

Sometimes it is possible to understand how a region is changing just by combining data from different satellite instruments. Paradoxically, sometimes you just simply turn off the light to notice details not otherwise visible.

The main image represents the combination of the Night band of the VIIRS instrument (on-board the NASA’s Suomi-NPP satellite) with the True-Color band combination of the MODIS instrument (on-board the NASA’s Aqua satellite).

The extent of urban areas captured by the Night Image is clearly visible using the True-Color Image as a background. Small agricultural fires are visible as small groups of white dots close to the major villages (in the middle right part of the image).

The city of Cape Town is visible in the lower left part of the image, while the municipalities of Johannesburg, Pretoria, Vereeniging, Brits and Rustenburg (in the upper right part of the image) show that the extent of the towns has become a single (giant) urban area.

In the small boxes at the beginning, the two images used for the combination.

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.

Orange River and Cape of Good Hope, South Africa

34.3S 18.4E

March 9th, 2012 Category: Rivers

Namibia - March 5th, 2012

The Orange River can be seen crossing the upper part of this image of South Africa, more or less parallel to the top edge. Despite its name, the river is most visible in the upper right quadrant as a thick green line.

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. It rises in the Drakensberg mountains in Lesotho, flowing westwards through South Africa to the Atlantic Ocean. In the full image, a small amount of sediments can be seen entering the Atlantic by the rivermouth. 

Visible in the lower part of the image are Cape Town and the Cape of Good Hope, in the Western Cape region of South Africa.  The Western Cape is exceptionally topographically diverse. 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.

Ash from Puyehue Volcano in Chile Reaches South Africa – June 16th, 2011

40.5S 72.1W

June 16th, 2011 Category: Image of the day, Volcanoes

South Africa - June 12th, 2011

Close-up of Ash

Ash from the eruption of the Puyehue volcano, in Chile, reaches all the way across the Atlantic Ocean to South Africa, a distance of over 4800 miles (7725 kilometers). Here, the plume of ash  can be seen crossing the southern part of the country, north of Cape Town.

The eruption began in the Puyehue-Cordón Caulle volcanic complex in Chile on June 4, 2011. At least 3,500 people were evacuated from nearby areas, while the ash cloud caused airport closures in neighboring Argentina, and later disrupted flights in places as far away as Australia and New Zealand.

Cape Peninsula and Cederberg Mountains, South Africa

33.9S 18.4E

March 18th, 2011 Category: Mountains

South Africa - February 18th, 2011

Located at the northern end of the peninsula near the center of this image is the city of Cape Town. The peninsula, called Cape Peninsula, consists of a dramatic mountainous spine jutting southwards into the Atlantic Ocean, ending at Cape Point.

Other mountains are visible further inland, easily identified by their greenish brown color. These are the Cederberg mountains and nature reserve, approximately 300 km north of Cape Town. The mountain range is named after the endangered Clanwilliam Cedar (Widdringtonia cedarbergensis), a tree endemic to the area.

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