Bird’s eye view: Brazil seen from space in NASA images
NASA’s Earth Observatory has been posting its Image of the Day since April 1999. These are some of the best shots made by the American Space Agency satellites and astronauts over Brazil. Pay special attention to a few dramatic before-and-after images that show how the land use evolved over the years. Most of the comments come from the Earth Observatory’s website. If you follow the links on the images you might reach high definition versions.
This astronaut photograph illustrates the diverse agricultural landscape in Perdizes, in the western part of Minas Gerais state. Though most widely known for its mineral wealth, Minas is also a large agricultural producer. You can see polygonal and circular center-pivot fields (sunflowers, wheat, potatoes, coffee, rice, soybeans, and corn), and the Araguari river. Inactive fields display the violet, reddish, and light tan soils common to this part of Brazil.
These two satellite images of Brasília were taken 10 years apart. They illustrate why the country’s capital is one of the best examples of 20th century urban planning – and also how it spread beyond original plans. The first is a day-image taken in 2001 during the dry season, with just 3 centimeters (1 inch) of rain, and is dominated by earth tones. Buildings and roads appear off-white, gray, or pale tan. You can also notice its airplane shape and the artificial lake Paranoá, that separates the downtown area (image center) from residential areas to the north- and southeast. Northwest of the city lies Brasília National Park, which preserves a large expanse of cerrado, the tropical savanna ecosystem natural for the area.
The second image, taken in 2011, highlights the presence of Ceilândia, a huge satellite city with its own distinct urban identity. The large unlit region to the upper right is the Brasília National Park. Other dark regions to the bottom and left include agricultural fields and expanses of the Cerrado tropical savanna.
One of the world’s largest deposits of iron ore in the world, Carajás mine was discovered by accident in 1967, when a helicopter carrying a team of geologists landed on a barren hilltop in the Amazon to refuel. They recognized iron ore on the soil. This satellite image produced in July 2009 shows the open-pit terraced layers of red earth at the Carajás mountains, in the state of Pará. The mine, run by Companhia Vale do Rio Doce, is estimated to contain about 18 billion tons of iron ore, plus gold, manganese, copper, and nickel.
“Six Mississippis’ worth of cafe-au-lait-colored water are converging here with two Mississippis’ worth of black-tea-colored water to produce the greatest hydrologic spectacle on the planet,” said Robert Meade, who spent decades studying rivers for the U.S. Geological Survey. “Put in terms of the sheer quantities of water, what we are seeing here is a volume of water at least a dozen times greater than the total of the water falling over the Niagara, Iguaçú, and Victoria Falls combined.” This satellite image was taken in June 2012.
The 38-kilometer-long (about 24 miles) Erepecu Lake runs parallel to Trombetas River in the Amazonian state of Pará. This 2009 picture was taken by an astronaut based at the International Space Station.
This really impressive astronaut photograph taken in September 2011 illustrates the slash-and-burn forest clearing along the Xingu River in the central state of Mato Grosso. Light colored areas within the river channel are sand bars, which show that the river is in its annual low-water stage.
These narrow strips of sand grew into full-blown, vegetated islands. They run parallel to the coast, mid-way between the mouth of the Amazon River and the coastal city of São Luís, protecting the lagoons and bays and coastal wetlands behind them. They were photographed in 2006 by the Landsat 5 satellite.
Where the states of Mato Grosso do Sul and São Paulo meet, the Paraná River appears as a wide, blue strip with the muddy brown water of the smaller Verde River entering from the northwest (top left). An extensive wetland (dark green) occupies most of the left half of this astronaut photograph taken early in 2012. The floodplains along both rivers are bordered by numerous fields of coffee, corn, and cotton.
This August 2000 Landsat 7 satellite scene shows the Negro River flowing through the eastern edge of Brazil’s Jaú National Park, the largest forest reserve in South America, covering over 5.6 million acres. Originating at the border of Venezuela and Brazil, the Negro River meets up with the Amazon in central Brazil to become its largest tributary. Half-submerged islands can be seen in the center of the river. Between November and April when the river is at its peak, many of these islands disappear.
These two images show the rich Brazilian dune landscape The first one is a dune field protected as the Lençóis Maranhenses National Park, on Brazil’s north coast. The wind strength and supply of sand are sufficient to keep the dunes active, and thus free of vegetation, despite 1500 mm (60 inches) of rainfall annually. The dark areas between the white dunes are fresh water ponds that draw fisherman to this park. It was made by an astronaut in 2003.
The second, a satellite image from 2002, shows dunes bordering a lake, the Atlantic ocean and the city of Luís Correia, in the state of Piauí.
Long exposure image of São Paulo produced by astronauts at the International Space Station. It shows the sprawling urban footprint of the largest city of South America. The port of Santos, on the right side of the photograph, is also well defined by lights.
Brazil’s Porto Primavera Dam (now re-baptized as Sérgio Motta) sits on the Paraná River in the state of São Paulo. Constructed to provide hydroelectricity, it was filled in two stages in December 1998 and March 2001. This Landsat satellite images show the region before and after the dam began filling the reservoir.
The city of Rio and the Guanabara Bay appear in this 2002 satellite photo. We can see the forested mountains of Tijuca National Park (to the Southwest, between the city and the beaches) and all the white sand beaches.
The state of Rondônia, part of the Amazonian “Arc of Deforestation,” a belt of rapidly disappearing tropical forest, illustrates the pattern of deforestation in the region. There, clearing began with road expansion in the 1970s and 1980s that brought in loggers and mining operations, coupled with government programs to alleviate poverty by encouraging poor farmers to migrate and colonize the new frontier. In recent years, industrial scale agriculture, particularly cattle ranching and soybean farming, have become increasingly important causes of deforestation in the southern Amazon. This pair of satellite images reveals how dramatically and rapidly the Amazon can be transformed. Compare the deforested areas (tan) to forest (green) in both pictures that are separated by mere six years.
Tags: Agriculture, Brasília, Rio, São Paulo