In early March 2011, over a period of just six days, the appearance of Australia’s Channel Country changed dramatically. Rainwater filled typically dry river channels throughout the region, particularly in southwestern Queensland.
The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Terra satellite captured these images of southwestern Queensland and northeastern South Australia on March 2, 2011 (top), and March 8, 2011 (bottom). Both images use a combination of infrared and visible light to increase the contrast between water and land. Vegetation, even sparse vegetation, appears bright green. Clouds appear sky blue. Water varies in color from electric blue to navy. Bare ground appears pink-beige.
On March 2, water fills just a few channels and basins. Six days later, standing water is apparent throughout southwestern Queensland and northeastern South Australia. The largest expanses of water appear just north of the border between the two states.
Channel Country flooding is a fairly common occurrence at this time of year, but the summer of 2010–2011 proved to be one of Australia’s wettest on record, leading to extensive flooding. Agence France-Presse reported that Australia’s Bureau of Meteorology described average rainfall as 70 percent above normal. Topped only by precipitation received in 1973–1974, rainfall for 2010–2011 was the second-highest since recordkeeping began 111 years earlier. Meteorologists attributed the unusually heavy precipitation to La Niña weather patterns.
NASA image courtesy MODIS Rapid Response Team, Goddard Space Flight Center. Caption by Michon Scott.