What the Heck Is This?

Today's image should be pretty easy, at least to guess generally what this is. So if you're struggling, here's a huge hint:

I cropped the image.

Okay, if that didn't help, you'll just have to look at the full-size image below and read more (and don't miss the most bizarre thing in the full picture)…

The satellite photo, provided by the European and Japanese space agencies, is a close-up of crops (green) and barren fields in the Imperial Valley, smack in the middle of the Southern California desert.

At the top-left is the Salton Sea. Read on to learn about the most bizarre thing in the full picture:

The rich agricultural soils of the Imperial Valley in Southern California are a patchwork quilt next to the Salton Sea. The cities of Brawley (bottom right), Westmorland (bottom left) and Calipatria (top) are visible, along with Ramer (top) and Finney Lakes (centre right).
The rich agricultural soils of the Imperial Valley in Southern California are a patchwork quilt next to the Salton Sea. The cities of Brawley (bottom right), Westmorland (bottom left) and Calipatria (top) are visible, along with Ramer (top) and Finney Lakes (centre right).
Credit: : JAXA, ESA, ALOS (Advanced Land Observing Satellite)

The Salton Sea is an inland lake. Thing is, it didn't use to be there. Throughout geologic history, it's alternated between being a lake and a dry lakebed as the climate vacillated. Through modern history, it was bone dry.

The latest incarnation of the Salton Sea came in 1905 after water from the Colorado River was diverted to irrigate the Imperial Valley. But, oops!, big rains up in the mountains sent a flood, and the water broke through the canal and filled up the Salton basin.

The setup was fixed by 1907, but the Salton Sea remained.

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