Beginning in late July 2010, torrential rains fell on Niger. The rains continued for weeks, flooding parts of the country. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these images of Niger around the city of Agadez.
The top image was captured August 23, 2010. The bottom image is from August 27, 2009, roughly a year earlier. Both use a combination of infrared and visible light to increase the contrast between water and land. Bare ground varies in color from brown to pink-beige. Vegetation is green. Small clouds, which only appear in the image from 2010, are a very pale blue-green. Water ranges in color from electric blue to bright blue-green.
Desert surrounds the city of Agadez, and mixed with the sand dunes and rocky outcrops are wadis—dry streambeds that fill with water and/or vegetation after rainfall. The image from 2010 shows wadis filled with water, especially in the northwest, and filled with water and vegetation to the east and south. Even outside the wadis, greenery is more prevalent. In 2009, most of the riverbeds appear dry or contain only minimal traces of water or plants.
Although the rains of 2010 would appear to be beneficial, news reports indicated the opposite. Voice of America reported that the rains drowned agricultural fields at a time when more than 7 million residents of Niger already faced food shortages. CNN reported that the rains had destroyed roughly 3,500 acres (1,400 hectares) of crops, such as rice, sorghum, and cassava. With desert plains and sand dunes covering most of the country, less than 12 percent of Niger’s land can support agriculture. The inundation of farms left international aid agencies scrambling to deliver food rations.
In addition to destroying crops, the torrential rains in July and August displaced nearly 200,000 residents, and caused a sharp increase in the incidence of waterborne disease.
NASA images courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Michon Scott.