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These images show the Imperial Valley, on the border of California and Mexico. The international border is plain in the images because of the different intensity of vegetation, shown in bright green. These images also show the Salton Sea and the growing cities of El Centro, Calexico, and Mexicali.

This valley, also known as the Salton Sink, the Salton Basin, and the Salton Trough, is actually an extension of the Gulf of California, cut off from the Gulf by the Colorado River’s delta fan. The valley was renamed Imperial by turn-of-the-century land investors. The area south of the U.S.-Mexico border is known as the Mexicali Valley.

At the bottom of the sink lies the Salton Sea, the largest lake in California. It lacks an outlet to the ocean and lies 70 m below sea level. About 85% of the sea’s inflows come from agricultural runoff, and its waters are 37% saltier than the Pacific Ocean.

Imagery

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July 16, 1973, Landsat 1 (path/row 42/37) — Imperial Valley, California, USA
June 30, 1992, Landsat 4 (path/row 39/37) — Imperial Valley, California, USA
June 27, 2011, Landsat 5 (path/row 39/37) — Imperial Valley, California, USA
July 3, 2019, Landsat 8 (path/row 39/37) — Imperial Valley, California, USA
June 6, 2021, Landsat 8 (path/row 39/37) — Imperial Valley, California, USA

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References (Earthshot Overview/Parent Only)

Case, H.L., III, and Barnum, D.A., 2007, The USGS Salton Sea Science Office: U.S. Geological Survey Fact Sheet 2007–3097, 2 p. (Available online at http://www.usgs.gov/saltonsea/.)

Cohen, M.J., 2009, Past and Future of the Salton Sea: in The World's Water 2008–2009, Water Brief 2, Pacific Institute, available online at http://worldwater.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/01/data20082009-WB02.pdf. (Accessed May 16, 2012.)

Collins, K., Ganster, P., Mason, C., López, E.S., and Quintero-Nuñez, M., eds., 2004, Imperial-Mexicali Valleys—Development and Environment of the U.S.-Mexican Border Region: San Diego, San Diego State University Press and Institute for Regional Studies of the Californias, 462 p.

Day, A., 1906, The inundation of the Salton Basin by the Colorado River and how it was caused: Scientific American, v. 94, p. 310–312.

Grunsky, C.E., 1907, The lower Colorado River and the Salton Basin: Transactions of the American Society of Civil Engineers, v. 33, no. 2, p. 102–152.

James, G.W., 1906, The overflow of the Colorado River and the Salton Sea: Scientific American, v. 94, p. 328–329.

MacDougal, D.T., 1914, The Salton Sea—a study of the geography, the geology, the floristics, and the ecology of a desert basin: Washington, D.C., Carnegie Institution, 182 p.

McDonald, C.C., and Loeltz, O.J., 1976, Water resources of the lower Colorado River—Salton Sea area as of 1971: U.S. Geological Survey Professional Paper 486-A, 34 p.

Miles, A.K., Ricca, M.A., Meckstroth, A., and Spring, S.E., 2009, Salton Sea Ecosystem Monitoring Project: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 2009–1276, 150 p.

NASA, 2003, Algal bloom in the Salton Sea, California: NASA Visible Earth, available online at http://visibleearth.nasa.gov/view.php?id=69091. (Accessed May 16, 2012.)

NASA, 2009, All-American Canal: NASA Image of the Day Gallery, available online at http://www.nasa.gov/multimedia/imagegallery/image_feature_1333.html. (Accessed May 16, 2012.)

NASA, 2009, All-American Canal, California-Mexico border: NASA Earth Observatory, available online at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=37078. (Accessed May 16, 2012.)

NASA, 2002, Imperial Valley and Salton Sea, California: NASA Earth Observatory, available online at http://earthobservatory.nasa.gov/IOTD/view.php?id=2591. (Accessed May 16, 2012.)

Oakeshott, G.B., 1971, California's changing landscapes—a guide to the geology of the state: New York, McGraw-Hill, 388 p.

United Nations Statistics Division, 2014, UNdata Web site at http://data.un.org/Data.aspx?d=POP&f=tableCode%3A240. (Accessed April 3, 2014.)

U.S. Census Bureau, 2012, State and County QuickFacts: U.S. Census Bureau Web site at https://www.census.gov/data/tables/2017/demo/popest/total-metro-and-micro-statistical-areas.html. (Accessed May 18, 2012.)

U.S. Department of the Interior, 2007, Restoration of the Salton Sea—Summary Report: Boulder City, Nev., Bureau of Reclamation, Lower Colorado Region, available online at http://www.usbr.gov/lc/region/programs/saltonsea.html. (Accessed May 16, 2012.)

Worster, D., 1985, Rivers of empire—water, aridity, and the growth of the American West: New York, Pantheon, 402 p.

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