Idaho’s Fields and Flows

Idaho’s Fields and Flows

An astronaut on board the International Space Station captured this photo of the Snake River in Idaho, while orbiting over the western United States. The image is centered on the American Falls Reservoir and surrounding agriculture and lava flows. Circular fields appear slightly oblong due to the oblique viewing angle with which the space station crew member captured the photo.

The American Falls Reservoir formed after a dam along the Snake River was completed in 1927. That dam was later replaced in 1978 with the current American Falls Dam. Today, the reservoir supplies water for irrigating nearby fields, which are typically used to grow potatoes, wheat, and barley. This photo highlights various irrigation methods including center-pivot (round fields) and spray irrigation. On some of the tan rectangular fields, dark parallel lines were made by spray systems that recently watered the ground.

When this photo was taken in June 2023, the solid dark-green fields were likely winter grain crops ready for harvest, while the lighter green fields were probably spring wheat, according to Derek Tilley of the Aberdeen Plant Materials Center. In contrast, the tan fields are either fallow or would have been recently planted with crops such as potatoes and sugar beets.

The dark gray region lacking agricultural plots is a lava flow that is part of the southeastern boundary of Craters of the Moon National Preserve. The rock unit within view, called the Wapi flow, is geologically young, having only formed about 2000 years ago. Lava flows in this area tend to retain their dark gray and black colors due to their young age and limited exposure to weathering and erosion.

Astronaut photograph ISS069-E-20298 was acquired on June 12, 2023, with a Nikon D5 digital camera using a focal length of 400 millimeters. It is provided by the ISS Crew Earth Observations Facility and the Earth Science and Remote Sensing Unit, Johnson Space Center. The image was taken by a member of the Expedition 69 crew. The image has been cropped and enhanced to improve contrast, and lens artifacts have been removed. The International Space Station Program supports the laboratory as part of the ISS National Lab to help astronauts take pictures of Earth that will be of the greatest value to scientists and the public, and to make those images freely available on the Internet. Additional images taken by astronauts and cosmonauts can be viewed at the NASA/JSC Gateway to Astronaut Photography of Earth. Caption by Andrea Wenzel/JETS II Contract at NASA-JSC.

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