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Southern California in 3D
This page contains archived content and is no longer being updated. At the time of publication, it represented the best available science. However, more recent observations and studies may have rendered some content obsolete.
Southern California's dramatic topography plays a critical role in
its climate, hydrology, ecology, agriculture, and habitability. This
image of Southern California, from the desert at Mojave to the ocean at
Ventura, shows a variety of landscapes and environments. Winds usually
bring moisture to this area from the west, moving from the ocean, across
the coastal plains, to the mountains, and then to the deserts. Most
rainfall occurs as the air masses rise over the mountains and cool with
altitude. Continuing east, and now drained of their moisture, the air
masses drop in altitude and warm as they spread across the desert. The
mountain rainfall supports forest and chaparral vegetation, seen here,
and also becomes ground water and stream flow that supports citrus,
avocado, strawberry, other crops, and a large and growing population on
the coastal plains.
This perspective view was generated by draping a Landsat satellite
image over a preliminary topographic map from the Shuttle
Radar Topography Mission (SRTM). It shows the Tehachapi Mountains in the right
foreground, the city of Ventura on the coast at the distant left, and
the easternmost Santa Ynez Mountains forming the skyline at the distant
Landsat has been providing visible and infrared views of the Earth
since 1972. SRTM elevation data matches the 30 meter resolution of most
Landsat images and will substantially help in analyses of the large and
growing Landsat image archive.
The elevation data used in this image was acquired by the Shuttle
Radar Topography Mission (SRTM) aboard the Space Shuttle Endeavour,
launched on February 11, 2000. SRTM used the same radar instrument that
comprised the Spaceborne Imaging Radar-C/X-Band Synthetic Aperture Radar
(SIR-C/X-SAR) that flew twice on the Space Shuttle Endeavour in 1994.
SRTM was designed to collect three-dimensional measurements of the
Earth's surface. To collect the 3-D data, engineers added a
60-meter-long (200-foot) mast, installed additional C-band and X-band
antennas, and improved tracking and navigation devices.
Location: 34.8 deg. North lat., 118.8 deg. West lon.
Orientation: View toward the southwest, 3X vertical exaggeration
Image: Landsat bands 1, 2&4, 3 as blue, green, and red, respectively
Date Acquired: February 16, 2000 (SRTM), November 11, 1986 (Landsat)
Image courtesy NASA, the National Imagery and Mapping Agency (NIMA) of
the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), the German and Italian space
agencies, and the Jet Propulsion Laboratory.