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High Dunes in the Namib Desert

Namib-Naukluft National Park is an ecological preserve in the Namib Desert in southwest Africa, thought to be Earth’s oldest desert. The park is the largest game park in Africa, and a surprising collection of creatures manages to survive in the hyper-arid region, including snakes, geckos, unusual insects, hyenas, and jackals. More moisture comes in as a fog off the Atlantic Ocean than falls as rain, with the average 63 millimeters of rainfall per year concentrated in the months of February and April.

The winds that bring in the fog are also responsible for creating the park’s towering sand dunes, whose burnt orange color is a sign of their age. The orange color develops over time as iron in the sand is oxidized (like rusty metal); the older the dune, the brighter the color. These dunes are the tallest in the world, in places rising above the desert floor more than 300 meters (almost 1000 feet). The dunes taper off near the coast, and lagoons, wetlands, and mudflats located along the shore attract hundreds of thousands of birds.

This perspective view was created by draping an ASTER color image over an ASTER-derived Digital Elevation Model of the topography. The image was acquired October 14, 2002.

Image courtesy NASA/GSFC/MITI/ERSDAC/JAROS, and U.S./Japan ASTER Science Team