The Pyrenees Mountains, France and Spain

The east to west trending snow capped Pyrenees Mountains form a natural border between France (north-bottom) and Spain (south-top). The landscape of the landforms on either side of the mountains is dramatically different. Large, alluvial fans can be seen radiating northward providing rich soils for a thriving agricultural economy on the French side of the mountains. While south of the mountains in Spain, the landscape is more rugged with numerous escarpments and steep cliffs that parallel the main axis of the Pyrenees. Within the higher elevations of the Pyrenees, numerous, deep glacially formed U-shaped valleys are arrayed in no set pattern. The picturesque but rugged terrain of the Pyrenees Mountains offer a natural environment for a variety of tourist attractions that includes hiking trails, sightseeing venues, health spas, winter and summer sports. The Principality of Andorra, a small mountainous country with only 187 square miles (486 square km) of territory and an estimated population of 63000 permanent residents, can be located towards the lower left corner of the image.
Source: NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Sierra de Segura, Sierra de los Filabres, Sierra Nevada, Spain

The thin, dark lines that wind across this arid landscape of southeast Spain are tributaries of the Guadalquivir River drainage basin. The headwaters of the Guadalquivir River rise in southeastern Spain, flow westward, and eventually empty into the Atlantic Ocean north of Cadiz. The tributary streams are fed by runoff from several mountains (darker features) including in this image the southwest to northeast trending Sierra de Segura (bottom center); the east-west aligned Sierra de los Filabres (slightly above center); and the more massive-looking Sierra Nevada (upper right corner). Several other (smaller) mountain ranges are also visible across the scene. A small reservoir (dark, elongated feature) is observed near the center of the image.
Source: NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

El Estrecho de Gibraltar una Separación Natural entre Europa y África

The Strait of Gibraltar provides a natural physical barrier between the countries of Spain (north) and Morocco (south). In geologic terms, the 10-mile (16-kilometer) strait that separates the two countries, as well as Europe and Africa, is located where the two major tectonic plates-the Eurasian Plate and the African Plate-collide. This high-oblique, northeast-looking photograph shows the mountainous northern coast of Morocco and the coastal mountains of southern Spain, including the dagger-shaped, snow-covered Sierra Nevada Mountains of southeastern Spain. The Guadalquivir River flows from east to west along the base of the Sierra Morena Mountains in southern Spain. The famous British city of Gibraltar is located on the wedge-shaped peninsula on the east side of the bay in the southernmost protrusion of Spain. The city of Ceuta is a Spanish enclave on the extreme northeastern coast of Morocco. Ceuta, a free port with a large harbor, has remained under Spanish control since 1580. Spain Maps
Source: NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Satellite view of the Strait of Gibraltar

The Strait of Gibraltar (bottom center), the only opening between the Mediterranean Sea (right center) and the Atlantic Ocean, is not only narrow (10 miles-16 km) in width but shallow (1300 feet-396 meters) as well. The northern peninsula of Morocco (lower right) extends northward towards the southwest coast of Spain. The strait locates where the two tectonic plates of Eurasian (north) and Africa (south) collide. Immediately east of the strait is the Alboran Sea (western extension of the Mediterranean Sea), a name given to the body of water between Spain and Morocco. A single atmospheric cloud (light-colored feature), probably smoke, is visible over the Alboran Sea as it extends southward from the south central coast of Spain. The darker landscapes in Morocco and Spain show the location of the vegetated, mountainous regions. The snow covered, higher elevations (maximum elevation 11421 feet-3481 meters) of the Sierra Nevada (Spain) are also visible near the center of the image. An extensive plains region (lighter-colored land corridor in lower left quadrant of image), known as the Andalusian Plains extends southward from the Guadalquivir River Valley. An abrupt color change near the lower left margin of the image is the result of an extensive, east-west trending fault that forms the northern boundary of the Guadalquivir River Valley.
Source: NASA - National Aeronautics and Space Administration

Spain satellite map

Scattered fires burn throughout the Iberian Peninsula and northern Africa in this true-color Terra MODIS image acquired on June 19, 2003. The fires, which are marked in red, are mostly small, though the group of fires outside Oporto, Portugal, are much larger and show visible smoke plumes streaming to the west over the Atlantic Ocean. Most of these fires are likely to be agriculturally related, though now that the fire season has arrived in the Northern Hemisphere, some are probably wildfires. This region has been experiencing record high temperatures- around 95 F (35C) generally, even as high as 106 F in Lisbon. These high temperatures can make fighting fires difficult; dry heat helps the fires to grow and spread and makes some methods of firefighting more difficult or impossible. For more information about the roles that fires play in the environment on both a local and global scale, read Global Fire Monitoring on the Earth Observatory website.
Source: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center


Airplane tracks crisscross the skies over the Bay of Biscay and the Atlantic Ocean (left) in this true-color Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) image of France (right), Spain (bottom), England (top) on September 29, 2002. At lower right is the Golfe de Lion. A few fires have been detected by MODIS and are marked with red dots.
Source: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Rapid Response Team, NASA/GSFC

Spain and Portugal

This MODIS true-color image shows a relatively cloud-free view of Portugal (westernmost country outlined) and Spain. At the top right of the image, the Pyrenees Mountains separate Spain from France. They appear to be still holding snow at higher elevations. In the bottom center of the image, you can see the Strait of Gibraltar, which is a channel between the Mediterranean Sea to the right, and the North Atlantic, to the left. The tip of Morocco can be seen on the southern side of the Strait.
Source: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center

2004 Summer Heatwave in Spain and Portugal

On July 1, 2004, Spain (roughly the right-most three-quarters of the peninsula) and Portugal (left-hand quarter) were in the midst of a blistering heat wave that cost several people their lives. When the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Aqua satellite captured this image (13:35 UTC, or 2:35 p.m. local time in Lisbon, Portugal) cool, sheltering clouds hugged only the northern coastline, while the rest of the country baked in the Sun.

The image shown here is land surface temperature observations collected by MODIS that scientists have color-coded in shades of pink (coldest temperatures) to blackish-red (highest temperatures). Deep reds dominate the country, especially around the central part of the border between the two countries, where land surface temperatures reach a scorching 59 degrees Celsius (138 degrees Fahrenheit). According to news reports, air temperatures were above 40 degrees Celsius (over 100 degrees Fahrenheit), and energy demand for air conditioning and refrigeration had caused power blackouts in places.
Source: Jacques Descloitres, MODIS Land Rapid Response Team at NASA Goddard Space Flight Center