Cloud streets off northern Australia •

Cloud streets off northern Australia

On July 15, 2016, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite acquired this true-color image of cloud streets — long parallel bands of cumulus clouds — off the northern coast of Australia.

The unofficial geographic term Northern Australia includes those parts of Queensland and Western Australia north of latitude 26° and all of the Northern Territory. Those local government areas of Western Australia and Queensland that lie partially in the north are included.

Although it comprises 45% of the total area of Australia, Northern Australia has only 5% of the Australian population (1.3 million in 2019). However, it includes several sources of Australian exports, being coal from the Great Dividing Range in Queensland/New South Wales and the natural gas and iron ore of the Pilbara region in WA. It also includes major natural tourist attractions, such as Uluru (Ayers Rock), the Great Barrier Reef and the Kakadu National Park.

Almost all of Northern Australia is a huge ancient craton that has not experienced geological upheaval since the end of the Precambrian. The only exception to this generalisation is the Wet Tropics of northern Queensland, where active volcanoes have been present as recently as the Pleistocene.

The vast craton in the north and west contains a number of quite rugged mountain ranges, of which the highest are the MacDonnell and Musgrave Ranges on the southern border of the Northern Territory. These rise to over 1,500 metres (4,900 ft), but the most spectacular features are the deep gorges of rivers such as the Finke. Most of the craton, however, is distinctly flat and generally low-lying with an average elevation of around 400 metres (1,300 ft), whilst in the Lake Eyre Basin most of the land is not far above sea level.

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