Images captured from the space released by NASA recently show the effect of Tropical Cyclone Mekunu on the Empty Quarter, after the storm dumped several years’ worth of rain creating temporary lakes among the dunes.
According to NASA’s Earth Observatory website, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 acquired the false-colour images of the eastern part of the desert in Saudi Arabia, near the border of Oman. “False-colour (bands 7-5-3) makes it easier to distinguish different rock and soil types and to detect the presence of moisture.”
The first image was acquired on May 29, three days after the centre of Mekunu had moved ashore over Oman, the Earth Observatory stated. “Salalah, about 300km south of this image, reportedly received 278mm of rain over 24 hours between May 25 and 26 - more than twice the average amount the city sees in a year.
“Mekunu dissipated as it tracked northwest over land, but still delivered plenty of water to the desert. Notice where water collected in the lowlands between sand dunes. For comparison, the second image was acquired on May 13 and represents the typically dry appearance of the interdune sand flats,” Nasa’s Earth Observatory stated.
It is rare for rainwater to form lakes in this part of the desert, known as the Empty Quarter. Sand composing dunes interspersed with salt flats, make up the majority of the landscape. According to news reports, this desert received on average 3cm (1.2 inches) of rain per year. It has been about 20 years since rainwater last filled the flats.
The rainwater is expected to give rise to summertime vegetation, a boon for camel owners, who expect to feed the animals on the plants for the next couple of seasons.