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Lake Powell Half Empty | by NASA Goddard Photo and Video
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Lake Powell Half Empty

After 14 years of drought, Lake Powell was at 42 percent of its capacity as of May 20, 2014. The low water levels are evident in these images, which were acquired by the Landsat 8 satellite on May 13, 2014. White bleached rock show where Lake Powell’s shore is when the reservoir is at capacity.

 

It is normal for water levels to fluctuate in the reservoir depending on how much water flows in from snow and rain and how much flows out to meet needs. However, it has been dry in all but three of the past 14 years. At the beginning of 2000, Lake Powell was at 94 percent of capacity. By October 2013 (the beginning of the 2014 water year), water levels had dropped to a low of 50 percent capacity, according to the Bureau of Reclamation, the agency that manages the reservoir. The Earth Observatory’s World of Change shows this annual fluctuation and overall decline. With slightly above average snowpack in the basin that feeds the lake, water levels are expected to rebound to about 51 percent of capacity by October 2014, the end of the water year.

While the drop in water levels are worrying for those who generate electricity or use the water for agriculture, the lower water levels may be a draw for recreation. Boaters coming to Lake Powell in the spring of 2014 will find beaches and rock formations that are usually underwater. Bullfrog Bay is the starting point for many boat rentals. The popularity of the spot is evident in the lower image: boats dot the surface of the water, just tiny white flecks at this scale.

 

NASA Earth Observatory image by Robert Simmon, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey. Caption by Holli Riebeek.

 

Instrument(s): Landsat 8 - OLI

 

Read more: 1.usa.gov/1hck6NX

 

Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

 

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NASA Goddard Space Flight Center enables NASA’s mission through four scientific endeavors: Earth Science, Heliophysics, Solar System Exploration, and Astrophysics. Goddard plays a leading role in NASA’s accomplishments by contributing compelling scientific knowledge to advance the Agency’s mission.

 

 

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Taken on May 22, 2014