Drought in the Rockies

Drought in the Rockies
  • Credit:

    Image courtesy NASA Goddard Space Flight Center Biospheric Sciences Branch, based on data from NOAA.

This image shows the difference between the amount of vegetation in July 2000 and the average July vegetation for North America. Of particular interest are the dry conditions in the western United States. This spring and summer the Rocky Mountains have been relatively dry, and the brown regions stretching from the Canadian to the Mexican border, indicate the effect on the regions' forests. Western Montana and eastern Idaho are particularly parched, and appear darker brown. The dry conditions have contributed to this year's devastating fire season, during which millions of acres have burned in the west.

Scientists find that during the growing season, land plants can be used to measure drought. Healthy, thriving plants reflect and absorb visible and near-infrared light differently than plants under stress. These variations in reflectance and absorption can be measured by satellites to produce maps of healthy and stressed vegetation. This image shows Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) anomaly, which indicates where vegetation growth was above average (green pixels), below average (brown pixels), or normal (white pixels).

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  • Visualization Date:

    August 30, 2000
  • Sensor(s):

    IMAGE

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