The Aqua satellite passed over the northwestern United States on October 22, 2013, allowing the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard to capture a beautifully clear image of a sunny fall day across the region. Green marks the areas of high rain and thick vegetation. In the Pacific Northwest, this green forms a striking contrast to the bright white snow topping the high mountain peaks, and the slightly less reflective fog which shrouds the valley.
Black borderlines have been overlain on this image to mark the political boundaries between eight states and two Canadian provinces. From the south to the north, and from west to east, the states are California, with its green coastal and mountainous regions, then arid Nevada, and Utah, which holds the two-toned Great Salt Lake. To the north the next row begins with Oregon on the Pacific Ocean, then Idaho and Montana. Colorado sits at the eastern edge of the image, between Montana and Utah. Washington state, with a large bank of fog covering the Strait of Juan de Fuca is found in the northwest corner. Moving northward across the border to Canada, the province of British Columbia is found in the west, with Alberta to the east.
Taken together, the states of Oregon, Washington and the province of British Columbia are included in the region known as the Pacific Northwest. Containing coastland, mountains, rainforest, desert, taiga as well as large cities, the habitat is diverse and many species of flora and fauna are found here. Within the Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6) in the states of Oregon and Washington, the US Forest Service identifies 17 National Forests, a National Scenic Area, a National Grassland and two National Volcanic Monuments. British Columbia contains 1,030 provincial parks and provincial areas, and about 14.7 percent (more than 13.9 million hectares) of the province is protected. This includes 200,000 hectares of habitat set aside for the “Spirit Bear” – a white-furred black bear which lives in the temperate coastal rainforests. Especially prolific on Gribbell Island and Princess Royal Islands which lie somewhat north of this image, the bears’ white fur is the result of a recessive mutation, as white bears can be born from black-furred parents.