In this pair of true- and false-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) images taken by the Terra satellite on December 27, 2003, flooding surrounds the Sacramento river in northern California. In the false-color image, dark blue and black colors represent flood waters brought on by days of rain filling already-swollen waterways. The flooding extends down to where the Sacramento River flows into the San Francisco Bay. In the true-color image, the flooding is less-apparent, looking like a darker brown stain sitting in the middle of the Sacramento Valley.
Snow coats the Sierra Nevada Mountains to the east of California’s central valleys, and continues into the high-altitude deserts of Nevada. In the false-color image, these snows appear bright turquoise against the shocking greens and subdued tans of snow-free land. Clouds appear white in both images, though high-altitude clouds appear light blue in false-color. Also showing more clearly in false-color are bright red-orange burn scars from recent large fires.
The true-color image uses bands 1, 4, and 3; the false-color image uses bands 7, 2, and 1.