Banks Peninsula, New Zealand

The Copernicus Sentinel-2 mission takes us over the Banks Peninsula on the South Island of New Zealand.

Banks Peninsula, visible in the bottom-right of the image, consists of two overlapping extinct volcanoes: the Lyttelton Volcano and the Akaroa Volcano. The peninsula was formed by several volcanic eruptions that took place around eight million years ago. The name of the peninsula comes from Sir Joseph Banks, a British biologist who sailed with Captain Cook.

Breaches in the crater walls led to the formation of two long, thin harbours: Lyttelton in the north and Akaroa in the south. The peninsula also has many other smaller bays and coves, giving it its unusual, cogwheel shape. Christchurch, the largest city on South Island, is visible immediately north of Banks Peninsula.

The jagged coastline heavily contrasts with the adjoining, flat Canterbury Plains. Extending around 80 km inland from the coast to the foothills of the Southern Alps, visible in the top-left of the image, the plains are a rich agricultural region known for wheat and barley, as well as wool and livestock.

The Rangitata, Rakaia and Waimakariri are the principal rivers visible in the image flowing southeast from the Southern Alps. The Rakaia river, visible in the centre of the image, is one of the largest braided rivers in New Zealand. The river travels for around 150 km before entering the Pacific Ocean. The turquoise colours visible in the ocean suggest the presence of sediment being carried into the ocean by river discharge, as well as algal blooms.

Between Rakaia river and the Banks Peninsula, lies Lake Ellesmere (Te Waihora). The lake is actually a shallow, coastal lagoon, with its emerald green colours most likely due to a high concentration of chlorophyll. The long stretch of land, visible in brown south of the lagoon, is the Kaitorete Spit and is a barrier that separates the lagoon from the Pacific Ocean.

Sentinel-2 is a two-satellite mission to supply the coverage and data delivery needed for Europe’s Copernicus programme. The mission’s frequent revisits over the same area and high spatial resolution allow changes in inland water bodies to be closely monitored.

This image, captured on 4 January 2019, is also featured on the Earth from Space video programme.