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Persian Gulf
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Persian Gulf

December 5, 2010
Appearing much like a bright amulet of lapis lazuli amid the stark tans and browns of arid land, the Persian Gulf sparkles with swirls of azure, turquoise, and cobalt on a clear late autumn day. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed over the region on November 29, 2010, capturing this true-color image.

The Persian Gulf is a semi-enclosed marginal sea surrounded by arid land masses and is located in the subtropical climate northwest of the Indian Ocean. It is very shallow sea, with an average depth of about 35 meters, but the waters are rich in biodiversity and are home to many fish as well as coral reefs. In this image, the coral reefs off Qatar and the United Arab Emirates are vividly visible in the blue waters of the southern Persian Gulf.

In late November or early December the transition from warm to cold season is marked by a rapid drop in seawater temperature, often as much as 10 C in a few weeks. This precipitous drop often coincides with the start of the winter Shamal, a strong north-westerly wind carrying cold air across the Gulf. It also creates tidal surges in the northern end, followed by extremely low tides throughout the Gulf, which can expose coral to the sun and wind. Conditions are harsh for survival of the almost thirty species of coral found in these waters.

Counter-clockwise from bottom left the countries surrounding the Persian Gulf are Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Iran, Iraq, and Kuwait. At upper left, the gray-green areas are the remaining wetlands of the Fertile Crescent - the watersheds and wetlands of the Tigris (north) and Euphrates (south) Rivers that join together before flowing out into the Persian Gulf. Each river carries sediment from the arid lands they drain, and this sediment finally spills into the Gulf, forming the swirls of color in the northern waters.

At the northern edge of the image, numerous thermal anomalies are marked with red dots. In some cases these may be fires, but in this region they may also represent flaming oil wells.


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