Crop Circles—in a Near-DesertAgriculture is transforming landscapes in the water-strapped West
Lush, unnaturally symmetric fields of wheat, potatoes, poplars and other crops dot parched northeast Oregon in this image taken last August by NASA's Terra satellite. A high-resolution sensor on the satellite gauges plant photosynthesis, which is scaled to color here: The darker the green, the denser the vegetation. Plant growth, or lack thereof, is a key indicator of drought.
The circular shapes result from pivot irrigation systems-outsize lawn sprinklers-that pull water from the Columbia River. Terra 's data can also be used to make fast, accurate maps of how much water is consumed by individual fields to help manage water supplies. Given the agricultural and consumer demands on the Columbia River, the U.S. Department of the Interior predicts that there is "substantial" potential for a water crisis by 2025, when demand would outpace supply.
You can also see this image on our Google Earth Layer