Remote Sensing Desertification
Jordan Valley
2018-05
People living in arid and semi-arid regions have long since recognized the temporal nature of water scarcity. While the international community saw arid zone development in the post-war era as a fight against desertification, arid lands are characterized by contrasts shaped by access to water. Since pre-historic times, people have lived in arid zones, which are not necessarily marked by an absolute lack of water, but a different evolution of human settlements in a context of contrasts and extreme variability. Desertification is contingent on spatial factors, on power, infrastructure and borders. 

Downstream of Jordan River, the Dead Sea is shrinking as freshwater is diverted to date farms, fish ponds and mineral extraction. Fresh water aquifers along its perimeter of the lake are receding with it. As this fresh water diffuses into salt deposits the dissolved deposits collapse without warning. More than 1,000 such sinkholes have appeared in the past 15 years.

This research, conducted with support from the Jordan Valley Authority, Aga Khan Foundation and MIT International Science and Technology Initiative, uses remote sensing imagery and groundtruthing surveys to map the uneven distribution of water access and the risk of climate-induced displacement in Jordan Valley. 

1. A false color image of Jordan Valley [combining Near Infrared, Red and Green Bands] Jordan River disects Israeli kibbutz farms and fish ponds on the left from Jordanian family farms on the right. 2. Normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) 3.  Context map—water access along the valley corridor. 4&5. Methodology for remote sensing desertification risk. Satellite Images obtained through the Planet Application Program Interface: In Space for Life on Earth. San Francisco, CA. 

Cargo Collective
Frogtown, Los Angeles