Clouds hovered off the coasts of Patagonia near dawn on a beautiful early spring day 2012, allowing a rare cloudless view of the dramatic landscape of the region. The Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) aboard the Terra satellite captured this striking image on September 24, 2012 at 19:05 UTC (6:05 a.m. Chile Summer Time).
Patagonia is a term used for the rugged region that comprises the southern end of South America, and includes parts of Chile (west) and Argentina (east). Although black borderlines have not been overlaid on this image, the border between the two countries is roughly delineated by the western side of the Andes Mountains, which run from north to south and are snow-capped in this image.
One of the most striking features along the Chilean-Andean border is a series of bright blue glacial lakes. From north to south these are Lake O’Higgins/San Martín, Viedma Lake and Argentino Lake. The southernmost portion of this mountain range remains quite cold year round, and gives a home to the largest ice fields in the Southern hemisphere outside of Antarctica. Moving east from the tower Andes the land gives way to vast steppe-like plains, while in the west the foliage is strikingly verdant, even in early spring.
Springtime in Patagonia, like spring in most places, in a time of change and rebirth. The wildflowers bloom in abundance, including a stark red, dramatic plant known as the Chilean firebush. Birds are on the move, with migration well underway. By November, about 150,000 Magellanic penguins will return to the Chilean coast to raise their young. It is also springtime which brings the birth of baby guanacos, a lama-like species found most commonly in Patagonia.