Skip to main content

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). (Image 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.

Got a strange or interesting photo related to science, nature or technology? What the Heck, send it to me, and maybe I'll use it. Or follow me on Twitter, or Facebook.

Robert Roy Britt
Rob was a writer and editor at starting in 1999. He served as managing editor of Live Science at its launch in 2004. He is now Chief Content Officer overseeing media properties for the sites’ parent company, Purch. Prior to joining the company, Rob was an editor at The Star-Ledger in New Jersey, and in 1998 he was founder and editor of the science news website ExploreZone. He has a journalism degree from Humboldt State University in California.