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Desert Erosion in Libya
10.27.08
iss017e013789 -- Desert Erosion in Libya ISS017-E-013789 (19 Aug. 2008) --- Desert erosion in Libya is featured in this image photographed by an Expedition 17 crewmember on the International Space Station. This detailed view (covering 13 kilometers) shows the classic patterns of an erosional desert landscape located 300 kilometers south of Libya's Mediterranean coast. Widespread indented patterns are low escarpments and stream terraces generated by stream erosion -- on those few occasions in any decade when enough rain falls for streams to flow. The only areas with active sediment deposition are the stream beds which appear in this image as sinuous zones with a distinct component of black minerals, resulting in a darker coloration than adjacent low escarpments. Sediment is transported into the area from a volcanic landscape immediately upstream to the west. Other stream-generated features are several relict stream banks, one of which even shows both of the original parallel banks. According to scientists, the ancient stream banks are preserved from erosion by various hardening cements (mainly calcium carbonate and gypsum) introduced by the streams when they were active, probably during wetter climates in the past two million years. Relict stream courses show prior positions of streams, and also provide Earth analogs for similar features on Mars. The lack of vegetation is the first indication of the great aridity of the region, but sand dunes also appear as sinuous lines oriented perpendicular to the dominant northeasterly wind direction (transverse dunes). Assuming the dominant wind direction remains the same, these transverse dunes are expected to move further to the southwest over time. Some of the dunes cross the river courses, showing how seldom the river flows.

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