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Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Quizzes
Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #13
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(See quiz questions or a list of previous quizzes.)

Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #13

Here's another chance to play geographical detective! This false-color image was acquired by the Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) in late June, 2002, and represents an area of about 292 kilometers x 370 kilometers. Data from the near-infrared, red and blue spectral bands of MISR's downward-viewing (nadir) camera are displayed as red, green and blue, respectively, causing highly vegetated areas to appear red.

Use any reference materials you like to answer the following 3 questions regarding prominent features within this landscape.

1. Three of the following four statements about the two countries contained with image area are true. Which one is false?
(A) They are among the world's top cotton producers.
(B) One celebrates Independence Day in March; the other in April.
(C) They are both landlocked.
(D) Soil in both countries has been subjected to increasing salinization.

Answer: B is false
The Amu Darya river forms a wide delta in the western deserts of Uzbekistan and northeastern Turkmenistan, and the river waters are utilized intensively to irrigate cotton and other crops. During the Soviet era, large irrigation systems were developed and the region became specialized in cotton growing. Independence from the Soviet Union occurred in 1991 and is celebrated by Uzbekistan on September 1st and by Turkmenistan on October 27th. Both of these landlocked countries are losing arable land to soil salinization as a result of rising groundwater levels that accompany crop irrigation.

2. Three of the following four statements about the large water bodies in the upper left-hand corner of the image are false. Which one is true?
(A) Increasing agricultural demands caused a 75% drop in water volume during the last few decades.
(B) Water volume increased by about 15% in the last decade due to a change in the availability of glacial meltwater.
(C) Increased commercial fishing in these waters over the past few decades has led to economic growth in the region.
(D) These freshwater bodies provided the setting for an international athletic competition held in the mid 1990's.

Answer: A is true
As a consequence of the diversion of vast quantities of freshwater from the Amu Darya and Syr Darya rivers, water volume in the Aral Sea has dropped by more than 80% since 1960. Increases in water input near the river's source (from precipitation or glacial meltwater) do not compensate for the water lost from this shrinking inland sea. Commercial fishing in the region has ceased.

3. Three of the following four statements about the major river system that diagonally traverses the image area are true. Which one is false?
(A) Parts of the river demarcate international political boundaries.
(B) The total number of fish species supported by the river system has decreased since the middle of the 20th century.
(C) The direction of water flow is from the upper left portion of the image toward the lower right.
(D) The river changed its course during the 17th century, prompting a city within the image area to relocate and re-build closer to the new riverbed.

Answer: C is false
A portion of the border between western Uzbekistan and northeastern Turkmenistan follows the course of the Amu Darya river. Within the river system, about 50 fish species could be found during the 1960's; that number has dropped to approximately 20. Within the area of this image, the width of the main river is widest in the lower right-hand corner (closer to its source in the mountains of Afghanistan) and is greatly reduced by the time it reaches the edges of the dwindling Aral Sea. However, both the Amu Darya and the Aral Sea have experienced dramatic changes in response to past climate and probably also in response to historical irrigation practices. The new and old site of the city of Urgench is one indication of the river's dynamic nature.

70 people from all over the world sent in responses before the deadline. Individuals who answered all three questions correctly are listed below in the order in which responses were received. The prize winners are indicated by asterisks.

  1. Martin Schmidt, Hamburg, Germany*
  2. Alejandra Csaszar, Santiago, Chile*
  3. Nicolas Chagnon, Ottawa, ON, Canada*
  4. Warren Judd, Auckland, New Zealand
  5. Heng-Hsin Liao, San Jose, CA, USA
  6. Phlip McCallum, Melbourne, Australia
  7. WK Chan, Hong Kong
  8. Scott Hemphill, Freiburg, Germany
  9. Martin Wermuth, Munich, Germany
10. Laure Montandon, Buchillon, Switzerland
11. Ross Amann, Colts Neck, NJ, USA
12. Jacques Allemand, Annecy, France
13. Kyle Dantzler, Carrollton, TX, USA
14. Philip Wyse
15. Jim Armstrong, Potter Valley, CA, USA
16. H.J. Riksen, Spijkenisse, the Netherlands
17. Thomas Nephew
18. Kathryn Mauz, Tucson, AZ, USA
19. Markus Breckheimer, Kelsterbach, Germany
20. JHG Hendriks, Hintham, the Netherlands
21. Matthias Knirr, Tuebingen, Germany
22. Jim Kalisch
23. Alison and Allen, Ottawa, Canada
24. N.Frasheri, Tirana, Albania
25. William Robertson, Carriage Hill, NC, USA
26. Regina Seiler, Lucerne, Switzerland
27. Chris Pepall, Staines, England
28. Daniel E. Charhut, Lake Bluff, IL, USA
29. Mrs. D. Schmidt, Ft. Myers, FL, USA
30. Sarah McCaffrey, Chicago, IL, USA
31. Jonathan Bystedt, Duncan, BC, Canada
32. Timotej Verbovsek, Ljubljana, Slovenia
33. Ivan P Anderson, Ditton, Kent, England, UK
34. Olivier LenglinŽ, Paris, France
35. Shirley Kelly, San Francisco, CA, USA
36. Bhaskar Ramachandran, Sioux Falls, SD, USA
37. Heather and Norman Wilder, Anchorage, AK, USA
38. A.M., Kailua-Kona, HI, USA
39. D. Berry, Lerwick, Shetland Islands, Scotland, UK
40. Marco Hoogvliet, Utrecht, the Netherlands
41. Josef Fischer, SchŠrding, Austria
42. Joe Capuano, Ypsilanti, MI, USA
43. Leonie Barsch, Pinneberg, Germany
44. Gilles Corre, London, England, UK
45. Manuel A. Freer, San JosŽ, Costa Rica
46. Ian May, Cambridge, England, UK
47. Earl Higgins, St. Louis, MO, USA
48. Carolyn Wei, Seattle, WA, USA
49. Andrew Okun, LA, CA, USA
50. Rob Hale, Norman, OK, USA
51. Stephen T. Johnston
52. Steve Gaiser, Sierra Madre, CA, USA
53. Christoph Janda, Vienna, Austria
54. Michael Delorme, Bourg-en-Bresse, France

A new "Where on Earth...?" mystery appears as the MISR "image of the week" approximately once every two months. A new image of the week is released every Wednesday at noon Pacific time on the MISR home page, The image also appears on the Earth Observatory,, and on the Atmospheric Sciences Data Center home page,, though usually with a several-hour delay.

MISR was built and is managed by NASA's Jet Propulsion Laboratory, Pasadena, CA, for NASA's Office of Earth Science, Washington, DC. The Terra satellite is managed by NASA's Goddard Space Flight Center, Greenbelt, MD. JPL is a division of the California Institute of Technology.

Credit: Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team.
Text acknowledgment: Clare Averill (Acro Service Corporation/Jet Propulsion Laboratory).