Dust Plume Off Argentina
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Dust Plume Off Argentina

February 1, 2009
A large plume of dust hovers over the Atlantic Ocean in this image, captured by the MODIS on the Aqua satellite on January 23, 2009. The plume extends off of the dry coastline of the northern part of Patagonia, Argentina. Currently this area is undergoing an unusual drought. The drought is causing significant damages to crops in the province of Buenos Aires (the southern part of it is visible at the top of the image). Rain is at a 40-year record low, prompting the government to declare a drought emergency.

The part of the Buenos Aires Province that is shown in the image is at the north end of the Patagonia desert and used for both agriculture and cattle. (If you view the higher resolution images, you can see square-shaped ranches near the coast.) It is prone to the production of dust. The amount dust is likely at an increase due to the severe drought conditions. Dust activity in this part of the world is seasonably variable and not well understood.

Though cut off on the image here, Chile and the Andes Mountains are just out of frame to the west. South-central Argentina fills the northwestern half of the image, stretching from the already-mentioned Buenos Aires province in the north to the Rio Negro province to the west, to the Chubut province in the south.

The sediment-filled Bahia Blanco is near the top of the image. The tannish-green coloration of the water in the this bay is due to sediments in the water deposited by river runoff, while farther out the blue and green colors likely signal the presence of phytoplankton. The Golfo San Matias is the large inlet on the left side of the image. Connected to the mainland by the Istmo Carlos Ameghino is the Peninsula Valdes. On either side of the Isthmo are two gulfs. The Golfo San Jose is the more nothern and is connected to the Golfo San Matias, and the Golfo Nuevo is the one to the south.

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