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Northwest Sumatra
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Northwest Sumatra

January 9, 2005
The island of Sumatra suffered from both the rumblings of the submarine earthquake and the tsunamis that were generated on December 26, 2004. Within minutes of the quake, the sea surged ashore, bringing destruction to the coasts of northern Sumatra. This image from the Terra MODIS instrument shows the Aceh province of northern Sumatra, Indonesia, on December 17, 2004, before the quake. Although MODIS was not specifically designed to make the very detailed observations that are usually necessary for mapping coastline changes, the sensor nevertheless observed obvious differences in the Sumatran coastline. On December 17, the green vegetation along the west coast appears to reach all the way to the sea, with only an occasional thin stretch of white that is likely sand. After the earthquake and tsunamis, the entire western coast is lined with a noticeable purplish-brown border. The brownish border could be deposited sand, or perhaps exposed soil that was stripped bare of vegetation when the large waves rushed ashore and then raced away. Another possibility is that parts of the coastline may have sunk as the sea floor near the plate boundary rose.


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