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Isaiah 41:18 “I will make rivers flow on barren heights, and springs within the valleys. I will turn the desert into pools of water, and the parched ground into springs.

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A beautiful lake formed in the Empty Quarter desert on the border between Saudi Arabia and Oman after heavy rains and the flow of valleys due to Hurricane Shaheen.

The same desert lake phenomenon took place about 3 years ago after Cyclone Mekunu in a rare phenomenon that had not happened in nearly 20 years at the time!

What is the Rub’ al Khali desert?

Also known at the ‘Empty Quarter’, the Rub’ al Khali is the largest contiguous sand desert in the world. Precipitation rarely exceeds 35 mm a year and regular high temperatures are around 50°C.

Rolling sand dunes in the expansive Rub’ al Khali desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula are pictured in this image from the Sentinel-2A satellite.
Rolling sand dunes in the expansive Rub’ al Khali desert on the southern Arabian Peninsula are pictured in this image from the Sentinel-2A satellite. ESA picture

The yellow lines and dots in this false-colour image are sand dunes. Looking closer at the dunes in the lower right, many have three or more ‘arms’ shaped by changing wind directions and are known as ‘star dunes’. They tend to ‘grow’ upwards rather than laterally, and reach up to 250 m in height in some parts of the Rub’ al Khali.

The dunes are interspersed with hardened flat plains – remnants of shallow lakes that existed thousands of years ago, formed by monsoon-like rains and runoff.

The multispectral instrument on Sentinel-2 uses parts of the infrared spectrum to detect subtle changes in vegetation cover, but can also see changes in mineral composition where vegetation is sparse. In this image, shades of brown to bright purple show the mineral composition, possibly including salt or gypsum.

In any cases, it seems like The Empty Quarter is no longer empty! [ESAFacebook]

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