March 7, 2014 - Hokkaido Island, Japan

Hokkaido Island, Japan

A heavy layer of snow covered Hokkaido in late February, 2014, bringing a sparkle to the rough-cut diamond of an island in northern Japan, while sea ice formed filigrees in the Sea of Okhotsk. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured this true-color image on February 27, 2014.

The second largest island of Japan, Hokkaido is the most northerly of that country’s large islands, and is separated from Russia’s Sakhalin Island in the northwest by La Perouse Strait. The flora and fauna of the island have much in common with Sakhalin and the more northerly regions. Indeed, dense taiga (northern boreal forest), typical of the arctic regions, covers the northern section of Hokkaido.

The center of the island is a mountainous volcanic plateau. The Isikari Range is found near the center, with the Hidoka Mountains running to the southeast and the Kitami Range in the northwest. The mountains give way to large coastal plains. Hokkaido has coasts on the Sea of Japan, in the west, The Sea of Okhotsk in the northeast, and the Pacific Ocean on the southeast.

One of the more unusual features of Hokkaido, as seen from space, is a lattice-shaped windbreak forest found in the Konsen Plateau. Not easily seen at low resolution, this grid-like feature can easily be seen in the northeast section of the island at 250 m resolution (click on 250 m to the right of the image then, if necessary, click on the image to zoom).

In the highly reflective, bright white, snow-covered Konsen Plateau, a set of grid-marks can easily be seen, even where thin clouds partly obstruct the view. This pattern is created by trees (primarily larch) planted in a lattice structure to protect farmland and livestock from bitterly cold, blowing winds. There is about 3 km (1.9 mi) between the lattices, with the forest belt about 180 m wide. These strips of forests have become habitat for various types of wildlife and birds, and are enjoyed as recreation areas for people as well.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 2/27/2014
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC