November 27, 2010 - Cape Verde Islands

Cape Verde Islands

On a calm and cloud-free day in late November, the green and tan Cape Verde Islands looked like jewels scattered across the backdrop of the deep azure waters of the North Atlantic Ocean. The Moderate Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite passed overhead and captured this stunning true-color image on November 23, 2010.

The Cape Verde Islands are an archipelago of 10 islands and 5 islets, and are located about 450 km (about 300 mi) off the west coast of Africa. The islands are divided into the windward (Barlavento) group, which lies to the north, and leeward (Sotavento) group, which is found to the south. The main islands in the Barlavento group are Santo Antão, São Vicente, Santa Luzia, São Nicolau, Sal, and Boa Vista. Boa Vista is the most eastward of the islands, noted for its brown sand dunes and 55 miles of white sand beaches. In this image, Boa Vista is a tan island ringed with white. The Sotavento group includes Maio, Santiago, Fogo, and Brava. In this image, Santiago is the greenest island and the capital city, Praia is visible as a gray smudge on the southeastern coast.

Although these islands appear small, they become newsworthy during the Atlantic Hurricane Season due to the formation of “Cape Verde Hurricanes”, which are tropical cyclones which form in the vicinity of the islands and have a reputation of making landfall in the United States. The hurricanes usually develop from tropical waves that form in the African savanna during the wet season then cross the African steppes. Because these hurricanes develop so far to the east, they often become the most intense and biggest storms of the season as they travel over a large expanse of warm, open waters which help power them.

The average Atlantic Hurricane season gives rise to approximately two Cape Verde hurricanes. In 2010, there were four in the season: Danielle, Earl, Igor and Julia, each of which reached a Category 4 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 11/23/2010
Resolutions: 1km ( B), 500m ( B), 250m ( B)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC