November 23, 2021 - Namibian Desert

Namibian Desert

On November 11, 2021, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on board NASA’s Terra satellite acquired a stunning true-color image of the gorgeous colors of Namibia.

The soft orange color along the Atlantic Coast marks the vast sands of the Namib Desert. This extremely arid desert is created by the action of the Benguela Current, a very cold current which flows from the south along the African coast. Because the cold current suppresses rainfall, most of the moisture that does reach the desert comes in the form of morning fog – just enough for allow for sparse vegetation in some coastal regions. The Namib Desert is said to be one of the oldest deserts on Earth, creating a unique environment for unique and endemic species of life—mostly arthropods—which have adapted to this harsh environment.

The vast sand seas impart a soft appearance to the Namib Desert and large fields of sand dunes give a textured appearance when viewed from space. The striking orange color, however, comes from a coating of iron oxide which becomes more prominent (redder) as the desert stretches further inland from the coast.

To the east (inland), the edge of the desert rises sharply to a rugged interior plateau. Here, spectacular outcropping and colorful rocks mix with increasing vegetation. The inland plateau covers more than half of Namibia and contains mountains, highlands, and the Great Western Escarpment.

Image Facts
Satellite: Terra
Date Acquired: 11/19/2021
Resolutions: 1km (218 KB), 500m (591 KB), 250m (316.2 KB)
Bands Used: 1,4,3
Image Credit: MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC