Earth  ID: 31033

Australia's Disappearing Lakes

In December 2016, the Menindee Lakes of New South Wales were nearly brimming with water. More than two years later, these Australian lakes are almost desiccated. These satellite images show the dwindling water levels of the Menindee Lakes, a chain of freshwater lakes located 110 km (70 mi) southeast of Broken Hill. The shallow natural depressions were developed into water storage by the Australian government to manage river flows. The images were acquired by the Operational Land Imager on Landsat 8 on January 27, 2017, February 15, 2018, and February 2, 2019.

Water levels often fluctuate as the basins collect precipitation or flood water. Evaporation accounts for about 400 gigalitres of water loss from the lakes every year. Other times the water is released into the nearby Darling River. During drought, when less water is coming into the lakes, the basins tend to be drier. Recent years have brought exceptional drought to the area. New South Wales has faced extremely hot temperatures and low precipitation, causing one of its worst droughts on record. The Lower-Darling River has been experiencing “extreme low inflows” of water from the Menindee Lakes since August 2018. As of February 18, 2019, the Lower-Darling’s storage level was 1 percent. Water has stopped flowing in parts of the river.

Public concerns drastically increased when millions of fish were found floating belly up along the Darling River on three separate occasions in January 2019. The massive fish kills stemmed from a series of events. Some sources say the massive fish kills were partly due to how the Menindee Lakes are managed, while others blame global warming and drought.

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Lauren Dauphin (SSAI): Data Visualizer
Kasha Patel (NASA/GSFC): Writer
Marit Jentoft-Nilsen: Animator
Please give credit for this item to:
NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, from NASA Earth Observatory images, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey

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Data Used:
Landsat-8/OLI/Band Combination 2,3,4 also referred to as: True Color
Observed Data
Note: While we identify the data sets used in these visualizations, we do not store any further details nor the data sets themselves on our site.

GCMD >> Location >> Australia
SVS >> Hyperwall
NASA Science >> Earth
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Human Dimensions >> Natural Hazards >> Droughts
GCMD >> Earth Science >> Terrestrial Hydrosphere >> Surface Water >> Lakes

GCMD keywords can be found on the Internet with the following citation: Olsen, L.M., G. Major, K. Shein, J. Scialdone, S. Ritz, T. Stevens, M. Morahan, A. Aleman, R. Vogel, S. Leicester, H. Weir, M. Meaux, S. Grebas, C.Solomon, M. Holland, T. Northcutt, R. A. Restrepo, R. Bilodeau, 2013. NASA/Global Change Master Directory (GCMD) Earth Science Keywords. Version