Earth from Space: Namib Desert
The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over part of the Namib Desert in western Namibia. At 55 million years old, the Namib is considered the oldest desert on Earth.
In this image, taken on October 27, 2019, much of the Namib-Naukluft National Park is visible. The park covers an area of nearly 50,000 km2 and encompasses part of the Namib Desert and the Naukluft Mountains to the east. White straight lines visible to the right of the image are roads that connect Namib-Naukluft National Park to other parts of Namibia.
The park’s main attraction is Sossusvlei – a large salt and clay pan visible in the center of the image. The crisp white soils of the pan contrast with the rusty red dunes that surround it.
Sossusvlei acts as an endorheic basin for the Tsauchab River – an ephemeral river flowing from the east. Due to the dry conditions in the Namib Desert, the river rarely flows that far and the pan generally remains dry most years. In the past, the water from the Tsauchab reached the Atlantic coast 60 km further.
The dunes in this region are among the highest in the world. The tallest, nicknamed “big daddy”, measures about 325 m. The dunes facing the river valley are called star dunes and are formed by winds blowing from multiple directions, creating long “arms” that point into the valley on both sides.
These dunes contrast with the saffron-colored dunes visible in the Namib Sand Sea just south of Soussusvlei. The sea of sand consists of two seas of dunes, one above the other. The foundation of the ancient sand sea has been around for at least 21 million years, while the younger sand above has been around for around 5 million years. The dunes here are formed by the transport of materials thousands of miles away, carried by rivers, ocean currents and wind.
The Namib Sand Sea is the only coastal desert in the world to contain large fog-influenced dune fields – the main source of water for the Namib Sand Sea. Haze is visible in the lower left of the image, the last remnants of fog coming from the Atlantic Ocean.
Copernicus Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission intended to provide the coverage and data delivery needed for the European Copernicus programme.
This image is featured in the Earth from Space video program.
– Download the full image in high resolution.