Last update: October 17th, 2019 at 9:00 am
On December 21, 2015, the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard NASA’s Terra satellite flew over southwestern Africa and captured a striking true-color image of Namibia.
One of the most defining features of Namibia is the Namib Desert, where stunning sand dunes stretch along the Atlantic Ocean for hundreds of miles. Almost all of the 1,572 km (977 mi) coastline is now protected land, with many parks designed to protect the extremely arid ecosystem which serves as home to a surprising number of creatures – such as hyena, jackal, snakes, geckos and unusual insects – despite the extreme heat and the lack of water. Namibia averages just 258 millimeters (10.2 inches) of rain per year, making Namibia the driest country in Africa south of the Sahara. In the Namib Desert, where rain is even more scarce, the primary source of moisture in many locations is coastal fog. This phenomenon can be seen in the northern coast where a broad bank of fog has formed over the Atlantic Ocean and reaches across the desert coast.
The sand in much of the Namib Desert appears orange in color, while further inland the rugged, rocky terrain changes to a burnt umber tint. The orange color develops over time as iron in the sand is oxidize upon exposure to air, a process similar to the rust that develops on metal. In general, the older the dunes the brighter the color. Stunning sand dunes, known as standing dunes, rise above the desert floor more than 300 meters (almost 1000 feet). The dunes are so tall they are easily visible from space. To see the dunes most easily, the image should be viewed at 250 meters resolution.