Image of the Week - The Belo Monte Dam Complex, Brazil

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Detailed Description

The Belo Monte Dam Complex's construction has had a significant impact on the flow of water along the Xingu River. These Landsat images show the changing landscape over the past several years. 

At the USGS EROS Center, we study land change, operate the Landsat satellites, and maintain the longest, continuously acquired collection of images of the Earth's land surface.
Hyperlink: USGS EROS Center (


Date Taken:

Length: 00:00:59

Location Taken: BR


In northern Brazil, the
Belo Monte Dam complex

on the Xingu River,

has changed the
course of the river and

surrounding landscape.
Construction began in

began producing hydropower

in 2016. When fully
operational in 2018, it

will be the world’s fourth
largest hydropower plant.

Landsat's shortwave infrared
bands distinguish water

and land. This band
combination displays the

rainforest as green, and
faded green is deforestation.

In the 2015 image, bright
areas indicate construction

of the dams, canals, and
dikes to contain the

reservoir. The primary dam
creates a reservoir and a 

canal diverts 80% of the
Xingu's flow into

another reservoir.
At the same time

these dams have caused the
original path of the river

to dry up, affecting fish
and turtles unique to that

stretch of the river, and
thousands of people who

depend on fishing for
their livelihoods.