Satellite image shows rain puddles in the world’s largest contiguous sand desert

June 15 (UPI) — An image shared by NASA this week features a rare sight, rain puddles in Rub’ al-Khali, the world’s largest contiguous sand desert.

At the end of May, the tropical cyclone Mekunu passed across the Arabian Peninsula. The port of Salalah, in Oman, received 11 inches of rain in just 24 hours — two times the city’s average annual precipitation total.

The storm slowed and dissipated as it traveled inland across the desert, but still had plenty of moisture left to drop.

On May 29, three days after the storm, Landsat 8’s Operational Land Imager snapped a picture of the dunes of Rub’ al-Khali as the satellite passed 435 miles overhead. The basins between the sand dunes can be seen filled with standing water.

NASA shared the remarkable image online this week.

The portion of the desert featured in the photo is known as the Empty Quarter. Water is a rarity there.

“It has been about 20 years since rainwater last filled the flats,” NASA reported.

According to the English-language paper Al Arabiya, the water-filled flats area expected to fuel vegetation growth of the summer — vegetation herders hope will feed their camels for the next two years.

In the future, rain on the Arabian Peninsula could become even rarer. Several studies suggest climate change could make large swaths of the Middle East and North African uninhabitable. Temperatures in the regions are expected to rise and droughts are predicted to become longer and occur more frequently.

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