The skies over the northwestern United States were clear on April 13, 2014, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite to capture a beautiful panorama of the region as it passed overhead.
Far inland, white snow clings to the greening ridges of the Rocky Mountain range, especially on the eastern slopes. The western slopes of the Rocky Mountains, for the most part, appear green and snow-free. Snow also caps the spine of the ridges running from north to south roughly parallel to the coast. These peaks belong to the Cascades Range in the north, and the Sierra Nevada Mountains in the south.
Between the snow-capped mountains, the landscape is painted an arid tan, lighted with only a faint wash of spring green in a few locations. This arid area is part of the Great Basin, a large, closed drainage basin that covers parts of Oregon, California, Nevada, Idaho, Wyoming and Colorado. Almost all of Nevada sits within the Great Basin.
The land between the western mountain ranges and the Pacific Ocean is colored in a palette of greens of various saturations, lightened with a bit of tan here and there. The greens indicate vegetation and, where precipitation is highest, such as in the far northwest, the greens are deeper and more intense. In the far southwest of the image tans, indicating drier land and less vegetation, marks the San Joaquin Valley. Although it appears less green than surrounding areas, the San Joaquin Valley is a rich agricultural area, and produces large harvests of citrus, cotton, nuts and other crops annually.