Southern Chile and Argentina
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Southern Chile and Argentina

February 20, 2011
On January 29, 2011 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Aqua satellite captured this beautiful ocean-to-ocean image of a clear, dry summer day in southern Chile and Argentina.

To the west, the waters of the South Pacific Ocean are lightened to a blue-gray due to “sunglint”, the mirror-like reflection of the Sun off of the water. Swirls of yellow-green in the waters off the northern Chilean coast mostly likely represent a phytoplankton bloom.

Chile is washed with a variety of greens, from the willow-green of the low valleys, to the tan-speckled dark greens of the mountains of the Chilean Coast Range, to the deep forest green of the verdant southern Andes Mountains. A stripe of tan land can be seen on the eastern side of the Chilean Coast Range, suggesting that much of the moisture blowing towards the land from the Pacific Ocean precipitates on the windward (western) mountain slopes, leaving little to fall on the leeward side.

The Andes Mountains, sometimes nicknamed “the Dragon's Back”, roughly approximates the border between Chile and Argentina. The peaks of this formidable mountain range are lower in this southern region than further north, but are still tall enough to keep snow cover, even in mid-summer.

To the east, the dry, arid lands of Argentina sport a range of tans and browns, from the light browns in the south, which indicate desert lands, to the white-washed tans that indicate soil covered by salt deposits. In the northeast the grasses of the pampas lend a green color to the landscape.

Running west to east near the center of the image, the valley of Rio Negro appears green, suggesting that the river water has been used to irrigate agricultural fields before it empties into the Atlantic Ocean. Just off the northern coast, sediment colors the ocean waters a silty tan, while to the south, brilliant jewel-toned phytoplankton blooms contrast sharply with the dark blue water.

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