Lake Natron

One of the most mysterious places in the world is the Lake Natron (02025S 36000E), located along the branch of the Rift Valley, known also as Gregory Rift, in the northern Tanzania.

The lake is characterized by a wide stretches of water, which will highlight in red during the seasonal flowering of algae. In fact, it is the red photosynthesizing pigment in the cyanobacteria responsible for the deep reds of the open water of the lake and the orange colors of the shallow parts of the lake.

Sentinel-2 RGB `true’ colour composite image of the maximum extent of Lake Natron, 804 km2. The red areas are due to the presence of algae, the white areas are salt flats and salt islands, and the dark areas are lagoons around the lake’s margin.

The erosion of the surrounding volcanic rocks has enriched the waters of the rivers with large quantities of dissolved salts, which, transported into the lakes, have crystallized due to the high evaporation caused by the strong insulation. In the dry season, the reverberation of the white and irregular salt surface becomes blinding. After the rains, a thin layer of water remains, which splits the salt into floating crust or `trona’.

These features can be seen in the underlying detailed satellite image of Lake Natron.

Imagery of Lake Natron from derived from Sentinel-2 where salt crust are visible.

Only the flamingos can survive in this arid vesicular environment moving barely in alkaline water searching for the abundant algae that make up their nourishment.

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