Heavy spring flooding in the Midwestern United States filled the mighty Mississippi River with sediment-laden runoff from farmlands, fields and forests by late April, 2013. In addition, a slow-moving storm system brought torrential rains to the region in the first days of May, causing flash flooding and evacuations in parts of Jackson County, Mississippi and increasing rain-swollen runoff.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this true-color image of the Mississippi Delta on May 4, 2013. The Mississippi River, laden with soils and sediment from America’s heartland, twists like a tan-colored snake across the landscape. Tan swirls nearly obscure New Orleans’ Lake Pontchartrain and dark plumes spread into the blue waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Sediment also spills from the coastal regions, including Texas (far west), Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Mobile Bay, in Alabama, appears to be completely discolored by runoff.
The Mississippi drains about 1.25 million square miles, or about 41% of the continental United States, including 31 states and two Canadian provinces. It has been estimated that the Mississippi river carries roughly 500 million tons of sediment into the Gulf of Mexico each year.