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‘Cycles of Wet and Dry in Etosha Pan’

  • Category
    Environment
  • Published
    22nd Sep, 2020

A bright salt pan to a wet and lush landscape — the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA)

Context

A bright salt pan to a wet and lush landscape — the United States National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) recently captured images depicting the wet and dry cycles of Etosha Pan in Africa’s Namibia through the year.  

About

  • The Etosha pan is hollow in the ground, wherein water may collect or in which a deposit of salt remains after water has evaporated.
  • The 120-kilometre-long dry lakebed and its surroundings are protected as Etosha National Park, Namibia’s second-largest wildlife park.
  • The pan is mostly dry, but after a heavy rain, it acquires a thin layer of water that is heavily salted by the mineral deposits on the surface.
    • According to NASA Earth Observatory, the salt pan receives most rainfall — as much as 46 centimetres — every year between October and March.
    • During the dry season from April through September, water in the basin evaporates — depositing salt and other minerals on the land.
  • Etosha National Park supports large populations of elephants, lions, rhinos, and several other animals.
  • The dry season is one of the best times for visitors to see animals because they often congregate around shrinking bodies of water.

Cycles of Wet and Dry in Etosha Pan

  • Almost all of the 46 centimeters(18 inches) of rain that falls in Etosha National Park each year arrives between October and March.
  • The influx of moisture—a boon for the wildlife—completely transforms the landscape.
  • It greens parched grasslands, replenishes ephemeral streams and watering holes, and sometimes pools enough to cover a flat basin with a layer of water that extends for thousands of square kilometers.
  • When the rains slow and then cease during the dry season (April through September), any water in the basin slowly evaporates, depositing salt and other minerals on the land surface in the process.
  • Over time, this cycle of flooding and evaporation has built up a mineral-encrusted surface called a salt pan.
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