Status Report

NASA MODIS Image of the Day: April 23, 2011 – New Mexico

By SpaceRef Editor
April 23, 2011
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NASA MODIS Image of the Day: April 23, 2011 – New Mexico
NASA MODIS Image of the Day: April 23, 2011 - New Mexico


On April 4, 2011 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite passed over the southwestern United States and captured this true-color image of a nearly cloud-free spring day in New Mexico.

On April 5, the National Drought Mitigation Center reported that central New Mexico was suffering from a D2 (Severe) drought, while southern New Mexico was even drier, with D3 (Extreme) drought conditions.

As can be seen in this image, most of the lands of the state are colored tan and reddish-brown, indicating arid land which is lacking vegetation. The large white circle in southern New Mexico is the area known as White Sands, a highly-light reflective desert located in the Tularosa Basin. The sand in this area is made of gypsum and calcium sulfate, and appears bright white. It also has a very high rate of evaporation of surface moisture. Moisture is evident in the highest elevations, with snow lying on the peaks of the mountains of northern New Mexico. Many mountains are also covered with green, indicating living vegetation, most likely in the form of forests, and suggesting adequate precipitation to support vegetative growth in these areas, even in drought conditions. Not only has New Mexico been extremely dry in the first months of 2011, it has also experienced prolonged high temperatures, low humidity and strong spring winds. These conditions have fueled multiple fires across the state. Lines of gray smoke appear to blow across the land in several locations in this image, including from the green circle marking the Jemez Mountains near Los Alamos. Also, in the green area to the northeast of White Sands, smoke continues to rise from a large fire known as the White Fire, leaving a thin film of haze over the area.

SpaceRef staff editor.