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Central Mexico
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Central Mexico

January 18, 2011
A clear, sunny afternoon painted the dramatic landscape of central Mexico with sharply-focused colors on January 10, 2011. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite passed overhead as the sun shone, capturing this true-color image.

Near the top of the image, a black boundary line has been overlain on the blue waters of the Rio Grande River, which forms the border between the state of Texas in the United States and the states of Chihuahua, Coahuila, Nuevo Leon and Tamaulipas, Mexico. In Mexico, this important waterway is called Rio Bravo del Norte, or simply Rio Bravo, and is an important source of water for agriculture.

The Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains line the western portion of Mexico. In the north, the mountains rise about 300 km inland from the Pacific Ocean, but approach to within 50 km at their southern extent. In the east, the Sierra Madre Oriental Mountains run over 1,000 km from north to south, progressively nearing the Gulf of Mexico at the southern terminus. They are home to the Sierra Madre Oriental pine-oak forests. Found in the higher elevations, this eco-region is richly biodiverse, containing twenty-three species of pine and about 200 species of oak. Although this eco-region contains over two-thirds of Mexico's standing forest, in 2006 it was reported that all but 2% of the original old growth forest is gone. Overharvesting of this forest has led to the extinction of the imperial woodpecker, the largest woodpecker on Earth.

Between the two mountain ranges lies the Mexican altiplano. Several of Mexico's most prominent cities, including Mexico City and Guadalajara are located in the southern altiplano valleys. Mexico City cannot be seen in this image, as it is located to the south. Guadalajara can be seen as a large gray smudge north of the slate blue Laguna de Chapala in the lower left of the image.

Numerous hotspots and smoke plumes can be seen near the southern border of the image. These are probably all from fires, although they lie in the northern section of the volcanic region of Mexico. In the lower left corner, haze can be seen moving over the Pacific Ocean, mostly likely arising from human activity as well as from smoke.


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