Sahara oasis from space

Sep 20, 2013
Deep in the Sahara Desert, the Al Jawf oasis in southeastern Libya is pictured in this image from Japan’s ALOS satellite. The city can be seen in in the upper left corner, while large, irrigated agricultural plots appear like Braille across the image. Between the city and the plots we can see the two parallel runways of the Kufra Airport. The agricultural plots reach up to a kilometre in diameter. Their circular shapes were created by a central-pivot irrigation system, where a long water pipe rotates around a well at the centre of each plot. Since the area receives virtually no rainfall, fossil water is pumped from deep underground for irrigation. Credit: JAXA, ESA

Deep in the Sahara Desert, the Al Jawf oasis in southeastern Libya is pictured in this image from Japan's ALOS satellite.

The city can be seen in in the upper left corner, while large, irrigated agricultural plots appear like Braille across the image. Between the city and the plots we can see the two parallel runways of the Kufra Airport.

The reach up to a kilometre in diameter. Their circular shapes were created by a central-pivot irrigation system, where a long rotates around a well at the centre of each plot. Since the area receives virtually no rainfall, fossil water is pumped from deep underground for irrigation.

With the Sahara Desert making up most of Libya, only 6% of its territory is suitable for agriculture. Although Libya has no permanent rivers or natural inland water bodies, it has various vast fossil aquifers – natural underground basins that hold enormous amounts of fresh water.

These aquifers are a legacy from around 10 000 years ago, when this territory was home to rivers and lakes that were regularly replenished with rains. Heavy amounts of rainfall seeped underground to saturate subsurface sandstone, penetrating as deep as 4 km.

In 1983 the Libyan government began the Great Man-Made River Project to pipe water from the aquifers to the populated coastal plains for drinking water and irrigation.

Thousands of kilometres of pipeline have been constructed, with more than six million cubic metres of flowing daily from the heart of the desert to meet coastal requirements.

Japan's Advanced Land Observing Satellite (ALOS) captured this image on 24 January 2011 with its Advanced Visible and Near Infrared Radiometer type-2, which charts land cover and vegetation in the visible and near-infrared spectral bands at a resolution of 10 m.

ESA supports ALOS as a Third Party Mission, which means ESA uses its multimission ground systems to acquire, process, distribute and archive data from the satellite to its user community.

This image is featured on the Earth from Space video programme.

Explore further: NASA sees Hurricane Edouard far from US, but creating rough surf

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

Scientists strike water in Kenya's parched north

Sep 11, 2013

The Kenyan government and UNESCO on Wednesday announced the discovery of a potentially vast supply of underground water in the impoverished, drought-stricken extreme north of the country.

Asia, US plains facing water extraction crisis

Aug 08, 2012

Heavily-populated regions of Asia, the arid Middle East and parts of the US corn belt are dangerously over-exploiting their underground water supplies, according to a study published on Wednesday in the journal ...

Recommended for you

Tree rings and arroyos

9 hours ago

A new GSA Bulletin study uses tree rings to document arroyo evolution along the lower Rio Puerco and Chaco Wash in northern New Mexico, USA. By determining burial dates in tree rings from salt cedar and wi ...

NASA image: Agricultural fires in the Ukraine

10 hours ago

Numerous fires (marked with red dots) are burning in Eastern Europe, likely as a result of regional agricultural practices. The body of water at the lower left of this true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging ...

NASA marks Polo for a hurricane

11 hours ago

Hurricane Polo still appears rounded in imagery from NOAA's GOES-West satellite, but forecasters at the National Hurricane Center expect that to change.

User comments : 1

Adjust slider to filter visible comments by rank

Display comments: newest first

Argiod
1 / 5 (6) Sep 20, 2013
...and if I use binoculars to watch what's going on in my neighbor's yard, I'm called a pervert, and told I'm 'invading their privacy'... But governments can spy on anyone from space and publish what they see online... What's wrong with this picture?