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Sediment along the eastern coast of Italy
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Sediment along the eastern coast of Italy

February 11, 2011
A ribbon of jewel-toned greens stretched along the eastern coast of Italy on February 6, 2011, while pale white swirls spiraled in the waters of the northern Adriatic Sea. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite passed overhead, capturing this true-color image on that same day.

The Adriatic Sea is connected to the rest of the Mediterranean only by the Strait of Otranto, seen in this image as the blue corridor of water between the land at the “heel of the boot” of Italy and the coast of Albania. Because of the narrowness of this strait, the Adriatic Sea can be considered a marine sub-region in its own right, and has identified as such by the 2008 EU Marine Strategy Framework Directive.

One of the unique features of the Adriatic Sea is the strong current that flows for hundreds of kilometers along the coast of Italy. The western Adriatic coastal current (WACC) is fed by the input from the Po River in the north along with other rivers that drain the Apennine Mountains that form the tall, snow covered spine of Italy's peninsula. During the winter months, the strong Bora winds provide the primary energy that forces the current southeastward down the coast. This current causes downwelling and disturbance of the sediments along the relatively shallow shelf off the Italian coast, which mix with the sediment carried by the rivers into the Sea. The mixing effect causes the brilliant coastal colors seen in this image.

On the northern coast, the Po River drains into the Adriatic Sea at a prominence, the Po Delta, which can be located in this image just south of the greenish Venetian Lagoon. This large river drains about 74,000 square kilometers of land and carries large amounts of water into the Sea, especially when rain-filled. It is a significant contributor to sediment in the Adriatic, and some of the whitish swirls may be also attributed to Po River sediment.


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