On December 17, 2013 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite passed over Madagascar and captured this true-color image of a late spring day on the island. December is the height of the spring wet season, when temperatures peak with daily average highs of 82°F (28°C) and daily lows of about 63°F (17°C), and cloud cover is high. In this image, popcorn clouds can be seen over higher elevations and much of the island’s remaining rain forests, while larger cloud banks lie off the northern coastlines.
A strip of green runs along the east coast of the country, a narrow area of rich lowlands flush with rainforests. Just to the west the land rises steeply to form the Haut Plateaux, a spine-like ridge that divides the east and the west. Bits of green also appear near the western coastline. Once filled with dry deciduous forests, this area is now mostly grassland. Rain comes much more often to the north, as evidenced both by the rich green coloration and the cloud cover. The southern tip, which appears tan in this image, is semi-arid and is home to cactus and cactus-like scrub.
Madagascar is well known for its rich diversity of flora and fauna. According to the World Wildlife Fund, more than 11,000 endemic plant species, including seven species of baobab tree, share the island with a vast variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians and others. Between 1999 and 2010, 615 new species were reported in Madagascar, including 41 mammals and 61 reptiles. Two critically threatened species that make Madagascar home are the Silky Sifaka, a type of lemur, and the Ploughshare tortoise.