At 86 meters (282 feet) below sea level, Death Valley, California, is one of the hottest, driest places on the planet. On average, the area sees only about 5 centimeters (1.96 inches) of rain a year, and summer temperatures routinely soar above 38 degrees Celsius (100 degrees Fahrenheit). At night, temperatures drop considerably, and many animals in Death Valley are nocturnal as a result. Plants and animals living in this punishing environment have had to adapt to extremes of temperature and aridity.
This image is compiled from observations by the Enhanced Thematic Mapper Plus sensor on the Landsat 7 satellite on June 11 and July 20, 2000. It shows Death Valley National Park and the surrounding region, including part of Nevada. In this image, green indicates vegetation, which increases with altitude. The peaks of Death Valley National Park sport forests of juniper and pine. The dots of brilliant green near the right edge of the image fall outside park boundaries, and probably result from irrigation. On the floor of the valley, vegetation is sparse, yet more than 1,000 different species eke out an existence in the park, some of them sending roots tens of meters below ground. The varying shades of brown, beige, and rust indicate bare ground; the different colors result from varying mineral compositions in the rocks and dirt. Although they may appear to be pools of water, the bright blue-green patches in the scene are actually salt pans that hold only a little moisture.
NASA image created by Laura Rocchio, Landsat Project Science Office, using data provided courtesy of the Earth Satellite Corporation.