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Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Quizzes
Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #22
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Where on Earth...? MISR Mystery Image Quiz #22
06/22/2005

Here's another chance to play geographical detective! This natural-color image from NASA's Multi-angle Imaging SpectroRadiometer (MISR) covers an area of about 374 kilometers x 276 kilometers and was acquired in mid-February, 2005. This mystery concerns the geography and weather of the region. Use any reference material you like and answer the following five questions.

1. A major river enters at the left-hand image margin and runs across the image area. Two other large rivers also enter from the left-hand edge, one from the south, and one from the north. These three rivers converge near a regional capital city, apparent as the large area of pale gray pixels near the junction of these three rivers. Name that capital city and these three rivers.

Answer: The image area encompasses the eastern Ganges plain and the States of Bihar and Jharkhand. In the top part of this image, Bihar is bisected by the Ganges River (which is also popularly known by its Hindu name, Ganga). The Son River (also spelled Sone River) joins the Ganges from the south, and the Gandak River joins from the north. A very small portion of the Gaghra River is also apparent here, as it joins with the Ganges just upstream from its confluence with the Sone. Patna, the capital city of Bihar, is located downstream from the Sone and opposite the confluence of the Ganges and the Gandak. The smaller river of Punpun only becomes navigable during the rains.

2. The following four statements concern the art and prehistory from a particular jurisdictional region (in this case, a state) of which the aforementioned city is the capital. Three of the statements are true. Which statement is false?
(A) There is no archaeological evidence of Neolithic settlement within 160 kilometers of the capital city.
(B) Within the capital city there are many pre and proto-historic artworks preserved by the state-owned art museum.
(C) A distinctive folk art painting style from that state is traditionally passed down from mothers to their daughters.
(D) At least three stone-age archaeological sites are known to exist within that state.

Answer: A is false
Patna became a great city by about 300 BC (Patna was previously called Pataliputra). In its long history, the surrounding region has seen the rise and fall of several kingdoms and empires. There are more than twenty archaeological sites within Bihar, and there are at least three stone-age archaeological sites, including several Neolithic settlements such as the one at Chirand (which is situated about 50 kilometers from Patna). The state-owned Patna Museum boasts a large number of pre- and proto-historic objects of relevance to Indian art and history. An important painting style from Bihar is the art of the Madhubani, which is traditionally passed from mothers to their daughters.

3. Along the banks of the major river that traverses the image, some dust has been swept aloft by strong winds. During this season, is the east-west component of the surface winds typically from the west, or do such winds generally blow from the east?

Answer: Either "from the west" or "neither" (no east-west component) are correct
The large scale (synoptically driven) winds tend to be rather weak in the the eastern Ganges valley, and the direction of these winds near Bihar during the winter (December - February) are governed by ones relative position to the dominant high pressure system. However, for a long stretch along the Ganges River there is a very weak wind component that is from the west. Data for this region and season from the National Centers for Environmental Prediction (NCEP) indicate a very weak prevailing wind component from the west at 850 mb (850 mb is one of the lower levels of the atmosphere). Winter winds data from NCEP were reanalyzed for Bihar in a peer-reviewed journal paper that is available online at: http://www-misr.jpl.nasa.gov/publicationFiles/DiGirolamo2004-GRL.pdf. Please note however, that the NCEP data does not capture mesoscale driven (smaller-scale) winds such as mountain-valley breezes. Close to the foothills of the Himalayas, the wind direction is governed by the local topography, and mountain-valley breezes will predominate.

4. Another major river enters at the upper image margin, and curves downward to converge with the major river that runs across the entire image. Three of the following four statements about the area surrounding the curved river are true. Which statement is false?
(A) The river has shifted its course by more than 100 kilometers in the past two and a half centuries.
(B) During the summer floods the river can attain a width of over 30 kilometers.
(C) For the most part, the series of embankments that were constructed in the 1950s to control the shifting nature of the river, work successfully to reduce the severity and duration of the annual flooding.
(D) An animal belonging to the order Cetacea can be found in this river.

Answer: C is false
The Kosi River in north Bihar is notorious for the meandering behavior of its east-to-west course. In the past 250 years, the Kosi has moved westwards by more than 100 kilometers. During the summer floods, the Kosi has been known to attain a width of over 30 km on the nearly flat Ganges plain. In 1955, the river was harnessed with the construction of a barrage. Since then, a series of canals, levees and embankments have channeled the river, providing plenty of irrigation water for north-east Bihar. Although the embankments have calmed the Kosi, flow regulation can not be said to have reduced the severity and duration of flooding, and embankment breaches have occurred in many years including 1968, 1984, 1987, 1988, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. The breaches are partly due to the extremely high silt content of the Kosi waters, which cause erratic and unpredictable morphological changes and bank erosion. As the embankments become choked with silt, seepage occurs and forces the bed level and the water table to rise. The embankments have been raised over 2 meters since their original construction in order to keep pace with the rising river bed. Some amount of previously arable countryside has been devastated by this rise in the water table, and it is reported that during the wet monsoon season, the only dry place for some villagers living at the southern tip of the West Kosi embankment is atop the embankment itself. Although now extremely rare, the Ganges River dolphin, Platanista gangetica, is still found within the Kosi River.

5. The tan and orange hues in the lower portion of the image area are associated with a plateau region in which many minerals have been mined. Three of the following four statements about mining in the region are true. Which one is false?
(A) Much of the mineral wealth of the region was transferred to a new jurisdiction in November 2000, when part of the plateau region became a new state.
(B) Significant reserves of lateric nickel, molybdenum and tin have been discovered here.
(C) Iron ore played an influential role in the region's history since it is abundant here but is rather scarce in neighboring areas.
(D) Gold, uranium, and at least two copper ore extraction sites are found within the region.

Answer: B is false (C also accepted as false)
Through bifurcation of Bihar in November 2000, the new Indian state of Jharkhand was formed. Jharkhand is comprised of about 45% of the geographical area of undivided Bihar. The southern portion of Bihar became Jharkhand, which now includes most of the Chhotanagpur plateau, to which many of the mineral resources of the region are bestowed. Northeastern India does not possess significant quantities of lateric nickel, molybdenum or tin. However, Bihar (before division) produced much of India's copper, and both gold (south of Chhotanagpur) and uranium (at Jadugudda in southern Jharkhand) are found today in Jharkhand. The southern Chhotanagpur plateau region was the single most important source for iron ore, coal, and bauxite within India, and undivided Bihar produced about 45% of India's iron ore. Iron was also extremely important for India's ancient history, since the increasing adoption of iron implements made it possible to remove dense forest and plough heavy clay soils, but rich iron ore deposits were only found within southern Bihar and Orissa. Ancient cities in Bihar (such as Rajgir) are testimony to these developments. Since the iron ore deposits at Orissa are situated a few hundred kilometers to the south of this image, C is also accepted as a false statement.

63 people from all over the world sent in responses before the deadline. Individuals who answered all five questions correctly are listed below in the order in which responses were received. The prize winners are indicated by an asterisk.

1. P. Minton, San Diego, CA, USA*
2. Subhash & Prasun, New Delhi, India*
3. Kyle Dantzler, Carrollton, TX, USA*
4. Weidong Luo, Oak Ridge, TN, USA
5. Mike Scherzer, Louisville, KY, USA
6. Thanassis Giannakopoulos, Athens, Greece
7. Andrzej Szuksztul, Gdansk, Poland

Credit: Image credit: NASA/GSFC/LaRC/JPL, MISR Team.
Text acknowledgment: Clare Averill (Raytheon ITSS/ Jet Propulsion Laboratory).

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