Étang Saumâtre and Lago Enriquillo

Étang Saumâtre and Lago Enriquillo are saline lakes found in Hispaniola’s rift valley along the border of Haiti and the Dominican Republic. Since both lakes are in a depression, there is no outflow to drain the lakes, so they are at the mercy of evaporation, rainfall variability, and runoff from the surrounding countryside. These three Landsat images from 1986, 2004, and 2012 show how dramatically the lake levels can fluctuate. 

In recent years, the water levels have been rising due to increased rainfall, which has been made worse by increased runoff and sedimentation from the reduction of forests. These higher lake levels have flooded the towns and agricultural lands on the shores of the lakes and have occasionally blocked the road between Haiti and the Dominican Republic. 

Landsat data are useful to scientists, managers, and policy planners as they study how natural variation, such as rainfall, and human changes, such as deforestation, can affect lake levels with often unexpected consequences.

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Thursday, October 4, 2012