You Can See the Drought from Space

August 23, 2012 11:35 PM
You Can See the Drought from Space

An old urban legend suggests that the Great Wall of China is visible from space. It’s just not true. However, here’s something that is now visible from space: the 2012 drought.

The Atlantic has reported that a stretch of the Mississippi river near Memphis, Tenn., has been somewhat "reconfigured" between last year’s flooding and this year’s drought. Photos from NASA’s Landsat 7 satellite confirm that yes, the cumulative effects of sediment deposits from last year’s flood, coupled with receding waters this summer, are indeed visible from space.

Water levels in this stretch of the Mississippi are between 2.4 to 8.3 feet below normal river stage, and an 11-mile stretch of the river near Greenville, Miss., has been closed to barge traffic. It’s a necessary move but also a costly one. About 60% of our grain exports, 22% of our domestic petroleum and 20% of coal for electricity is moved via inland waterways, according to Ann McCulloch, a spokeswoman for the National Waterways Foundation.

Officials from the Army Corps of Engineers speculate that barge traffic jams, closed ports and closed river sections could continue through October.

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