April 9, 2014 - North central Australia
On March 27, 2014 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite captured a true-color image of north central Australia.
Roughly the eastern half of the land in this image belongs to Northern Territory’s “Top End”. The western half belongs to the state of Western Australia. The dividing line between Western Australia and Northern Territory has not been marked, but it runs north to south just east of Lake Argyle, the sprawling deep blue lake near the top and center of the image. Lake Argyle is Australia’s largest lake, by volume, and sits on the Kimberley Plateau.
Due north of Lake Argyle, sediment colors Joseph Bonaparte Gulf, a part of the Timor Sea, a muddy brown. Melville Island (east) and Bathurst Island (west) sit just off the Northern Territory mainland, just where the Timor Sea meets the Arafura Sea. Along with nine smaller, uninhabited, islands they make up the Tiwi Islands. On the mainland coast and about 80 km due south of the Tiwi Islands sits Darwin, the largest city and the capital of Northern Territory.
The greening land contains relatively flat floodplains and savanna, much of which is used for grazing livestock. Some areas are nearly pristine, retaining their original wild state. Much of this is preserved in numerous parks. The wild lands are home to fauna and flora with evocative names: Woodward’s walleroo, frill-neck lizards, Darwin stringybark trees and Darwin woolybutt eucalyptus, to name just a few.
Further from the coast, less rain falls, and green grassland gives ways to the tans of rugged scrubland and sandstone plateaus. A line of red hotspots (areas where the thermal sensors on the MODIS instrument identify high temperatures) can be seen in Western Australia and a few hotspots are scattered throughout the Northern Territory. Typically such hotspots in spring in agricultural areas are suggestive of fires which have been deliberately set for agricultural purposes.