Minimize Compelling coastline along Roebuck Bay

This photograph taken from the International Space Station on 11 June 2015 shows striking shoreline patterns at Roebuck Bay, on the coast of the desert landscape of Western Australia. The indents along the shoreline (centre and left) are points where small, straight streams reach the bay. Even smaller tributaries give a feathered appearance to this shoreline. By contrast, the more typical meandering channel patterns of coastal wetlands appear on the top right.

Almost no human-built patterns are visible in the scene, even though the town of Broome lies just outside the image on the top right. The exceptions are the few fence lines crossing the straight streams in the bottom third of the image.

The regularity of the stream pattern seems to have its origin in the surrounding inland areas. Several inland dunefields show the same pattern of parallel "linear dunes". Interestingly, the dunes are spaced roughly the same distance apart as the parcels of land between the straight streams at the coast. Both the dunes and the straight streams are aligned with the dominant winds out of the east. (Note that north is to the upper right.) It seems likely that dunes once occupied the bay shore and may have controlled the spacing and linearity on the straight streams. The phenomenon of streams forming in the parallel lows between linear dunes is well known in desert landscapes.

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Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

Roebuck Bay


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