As states across the US are considering relaxing coronavirus-related lockdown measures, the fiery landscape of southern California is showing its true “superbloom” colors – and now the sweeping desert landscape been captured in its flame-like glory by satellites deployed by NASA's Space Observatory.
The space agency’s Operational Land Imager captured the orange-hued poppy blooms on April 14 in the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve, located near the tip of the Mojave Desert, when the area was thought to be at or near its peak. Made by incorporating Landsat data from the US Geological Survey, the images show the gridded landscape northwest of Palmdale, California as if set ablaze by wildflowers.
“The flowers bloomed after Southern California received significant rainfall in March and April 2020. This spring, Lancaster received around 10.5 inches (27 centimeters) of rain—almost 4 inches (10 centimeters) above normal,” wrote NASA. “The extra rain may cause the poppies to stick around longer than usual and result in an above-average wildflower year. Park officials called this bloom an “unexpected” surprise due to the late-season rains.”
As its name suggests, the Antelope Valley California Poppy Reserve is a 7-kilometer-squared (about 1,800 acres) park located in the remote northeastern hills of LA County, providing a “perfect microclimate” for the technicolor display of blooming California poppies – the state’s flower – every spring. A superbloom, on the other hand, is the result of a perfect blend of environmental conditions that bring out large numbers of wildflowers at nearly the same time.
“The bloom time changes every year,” said state park interpreter Jean Rhyne. “Generally, it happens early in April, but it can take place any time between mid-March and early May.”
After five years of drought, large amounts of long-anticipated precipitation welcomed the arrival of superblooms that began in the southern part of the state and slowly crept northward. Before-and-after images taken by the private satellite startup Planet captured the dramatic differences from the once barren, drought-stricken southern California landscape transformed to foothills blossoming with a lush wave of varying shades of greens, yellows, and oranges.
In the newly released NASA images, orange appears to dominate the landscape but the fields also contain lavender-colored forget-me-nots, cream cups, purple-hued bush pines, and yellow goldfields.
“Depending on the day or even hour, the orange patches may change in appearance. The poppies open their petals during sunny periods, appearing like a large blanket over the landscape. The flowers tend to close during windy, cold periods,” writes NASA.
Many parks across the nation still remain closed, but the California Department of Parks and Recreation is welcoming virtual visitors to its poppy reserve through specially designated live camera.