Lake Abbe in northeast Ethiopia •

Today’s Image of the Day from the European Space Agency features a false-color image of Lake Abbe in northeast Ethiopia. The image was captured by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission. 

“Visible as the large round dark area, Lake Abbe, also known as Lake Abhe, straddles the border of Ethiopia to the west and Djibouti to the east. The lake is 19 km wide and 17 km long and is extremely salty. It is dotted with clusters of steaming limestone chimneys and surrounded by large salt flats, visible in white, and rift volcanoes,” says ESA.

“The biggest volcano in the image is Mount Dama Ali, a dormant 25-km-wide shield volcano that rises on the northwest shore of the lake.”

“Lake Abbe and Lake Afambo, which is visible at the top of the image, are part of a chain of six connected salt lakes, fed by the Awash River – one of Ethiopia’s biggest rivers.’

Copernicus Sentinel-2’s near-infrared channel highlights vegetation in bright red. This strategy makes it easy to spot algal blooms, such as the one that is visible in Lake Abbe. According to ESA, the light blue color on the west shore indicates sediment discharged into the lake.

“Because of its dry, desert, almost lunar landscape and the steaming, sulphuric vents, Lake Abbe is considered one of the most inaccessible areas on Earth,” says ESA. “Earth observation satellites are key in these cases as they are particularly relevant for monitoring remote regions such as this.”

Lake Abbe, also known as Abbe Bad, is known for its otherworldly landscape, featuring limestone chimneys that release steam and hot springs due to geothermal activity beneath the lake’s surface. These chimneys can reach heights of up to 50 meters (about 164 feet) and create a landscape that often appears alien and surreal.

The lake is part of the Afar Depression, a junction of three tectonic plates that is pulling apart the Earth’s crust, leading to volcanic activity and the formation of new crust. This geological activity makes Lake Abbe a site of significant scientific interest, especially in studies related to tectonics and evolutionary biology.

Lake Abbe is also an important ecological site. It serves as a critical habitat for various species, especially birds. Flamingos, pelicans, and other migratory birds are often found here, making it a popular site for bird watching. The area surrounding the lake supports pastoralist communities, who rely on it for grazing their livestock.

The climate around Lake Abbe is arid and temperatures can be extreme, with hot days and cold nights. Despite the harsh conditions, the unique landscape and biodiversity make Lake Abbe a significant natural attraction, drawing tourists interested in nature, photography, and science.

Over the years, efforts have been made to balance ecological preservation with local economic development to ensure that Lake Abbe remains a sustainable and protected natural wonder.

Image Credit: ESA 


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