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Southwest Alaska
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Southwest Alaska

November 21, 2011
Because it is a place where climate, volcanic eruptions, tectonic forces and glacial processes actively interact, southwest Alaska has been considered a showplace of geological features and landscape processes. On November 15, 2011 a sunny day allowed the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite to capture a clear image of the rugged and diverse terrain of the region.

A week before this image was captured, a fierce early-winter storm pummeled this area with blizzard conditions, hurricane force winds and icy conditions. The storm left a blanket of white across the region, was reported to have damaged buildings, and caused some coastal villages to be evacuated. The November 8-9 “super storm” has been compared to the historic 1974 storm, which was the worst in Alaska’s history.

Near the lower center of the image, rugged mountains with fjord-like lakes mark the western edge of Wood-Tikchik State Park, the largest park in the nation, containing 1.6 million acres. On their eastern side, these lakes look out upon the expansive tundra of the Nushagak Lowlands. Further west, the Kuskokwim River flows into Bristol Bay, where lacy-looking ice has formed over the open waters. The large river to the north is the Yukon, and the broad delta formed by these two rivers is known as the Yukon-Kuskokwim delta. The coastal waters are tinted in greens and browns, indicating sediment in the waters. In the lower right corner, wind blowing from across the Alaskan Peninsula carries multiple plumes of dust to the southeast. This is most likely glacial flour – fine sediment created by the slow grinding motion of glaciers over bedrock.

Credit: Jeff Schmaltz, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team, NASA GSFC


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