Earth as Art 3

The Earth as Art Three exhibit provides fresh and inspiring glimpses of different parts of our planet's complex surface.

Rugged Terrain

Hues of green and orange highlight the extreme ruggedness of the mountainous terrain in eastern Afghanistan, near its border with Pakistan. The dark green areas on the right side along rivers indicate agricultural areas. Snow-fed streams allow sufficient irrigation to transform relatively arid soils into productive fields.

Roof of the World

Central Asia's Tibetan Plateau is justifiably nicknamed "the roof of the world"-its average elevation is more than 4,500 meters (14,764 feet). It is the world's highest and largest plateau, covering an area roughly four times the size of Texas. Tectonic forces have long shaped the Tibetan Plateau's crumpled and uplifted mountain ridges. This scene also features some of the area's deep, glacier-fed lakes. The two largest lakes in this scene are Migriggyangzham near the upper left and Dorsoidong just below it.

Rocky Mountain Trench

What appears to be a stroke of thick red paint is actually a remarkable interplay of light and cloud in the Canadian Rockies. Angling through them is part of the Rocky Mountain Trench, a valley that extends from Montana, USA, to just south of the Yukon Territory. Low clouds filled a part of the Trench near the border between the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia. The light-reflecting nature of the clouds coupled with low sun elevation resulted in this startling effect.

Robinson Glacier

Lines and shapes etched into the surface of Antarctica's Robinson Glacier hint at the slow but inevitable movements of this giant river of ice. Patterns of lines may be icefalls, where a glacier cascades over rock, or a series of crevasses, massive cracks that form as different parts of a glacier move at slightly different speeds. Robinson Glacier flows down to the continent's coast, where glacial ice meets mammoth slabs of sea ice caught in the frigid embrace of the Southern Ocean.

Remote Tundra

Skeletal extensions of land reach like bony fingers across a section of Liverpool Bay along the northern edge of Canada's Northwest Territories. Only small villages are thinly scattered in this remote and inhospitable region of Arctic tundra bordering the Beaufort Sea. The relatively flat landscape is dotted with shallow lakes during the extremely brief summer season.

Okavango Delta

Like a watercolor in which a brushstroke of dark green has bled into a damp spot on the paper, southern Africa's Okavango River spreads across the pale, parched landscape of northern Botswana to become the lush Okavango Delta. The delta forms where the river empties into a basin in the Kalahari Desert, creating a maze of lagoons, channels, and islands where vegetation flourishes, even in the dry season, and wildlife abounds.

No Man's Land

A study in shades of blue and brown is actually one of the harshest landscapes on Earth. This glimpse of Africa's Sahara Desert, located near where the borders of Mali, Niger, and Algeria converge, is truly a no man's land, a world of sand and rock without roads or settlements. The horizontal lines across the top half of the image are intrusions of igneous rock, where magma poked up to the surface from deep underground.

Mount Elgon

Clouds encircle the lofty rim of Africa's Mount Elgon, a huge, long-extinct volcano on the border between Uganda and Kenya. The solitary volcano has one of the world's largest intact calderas, a cauldron-like central depression. The caldera is about 6.5 kilometers (4 miles) across and formed following an eruption, when the emptied magma chamber collapsed under the weight of volcanic rock above it.

Meighen Island

A veil of blowing snow nearly obscures Meighen Island (left) off the northern coast of Canada. Across the Sverdrup Channel lies the much larger Axel Heiberg Island, where glaciers (blue) huddle among mountain peaks (yellow) and flow into deep fjords. No evidence of human occupation has ever been found on Meighen Island.

Meandering Mississippi

Small, blocky shapes of towns, fields, and pastures surround the graceful swirls and whorls of the Mississippi River. Countless oxbow lakes and cutoffs accompany the meandering river south of Memphis, Tennessee, on the border between Arkansas and Mississippi, USA. The "mighty Mississippi" is the largest river system in North America.

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