Los Angeles

December 26, 2002


Provided by: NASA/JPL/NIMA (SRTM Mission)
Summary authors & editors: NASA JPL Planetary Photojournal

Los Angeles, Calif., is one of the world's largest metropolitan areas with a population of about 15 million people. The urban areas mostly cover the coastal plains and lie within the inland valleys. The intervening and adjacent mountains are generally too rugged for much urban development. This is in large part because the mountains are "young", meaning they are still building (and eroding) in this seismically active (earthquake prone) region.

Earthquake faults commonly lie between the mountains and the lowlands. The San Andreas fault, the largest fault in California, likewise divides the very rugged San Gabriel Mountains from the low-relief Mojave Desert, thus forming a straight topographic boundary between the top center and lower right corner of the image.

The Landsat image used here was acquired on May 4, 2001, about seven weeks before the summer solstice, so natural terrain shading is not particularly strong. It is also not especially apparent given a view direction (northwest) nearly parallel to the sun illumination (shadows generally fall on the backsides of mountains). Consequently, topographic shading derived from the SRTM elevation model was added to the Landsat image, with a false sun illumination from the left (southwest). This synthetic shading enhances the appearance of the topography.

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