On September 24, 2013 the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) flying aboard NASA’s Terra satellite caught a glimpse of an early spring day across central Chile and Argentina.
The most notable feature is the Andes Mountain range, which is covered with bright white snow-pack and dotted with glaciers. The Andes run along the western coast of South America, passing through seven countries along the range’s roughly 7,000 km (4,300 mi) length. It is the longest continental mountain range in the world. Snow falls heavily in the winter here, and the winter snowpack is critical to the region, as it is the main source of freshwater for the populated and semi-arid regions of central-western Argentina and central Chile.
A black borderline has been overlain on the image, and can be seen running from north to south along the Andes Mountains, at times in the middle of the range, but mostly to the east. This marks the boundary between Chile (west) and Argentina (east). The Republic of Chile occupies a long, narrow strip of land between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean. It is made up of low coastal mountains, rugged mountains in the east, and a fertile but small central valley. According to the CIA Factbook, in 2011 only 1.74% of the land was considered arable, with 0.6% planted in permanent crops.
Argentina lies east of the Andes, with the fertile lowlands or plains lying in the north, and the drier more steppe-like plains to the south. In this image, the Pampas – the northern plains – are lightly tinted with green from the early growth of spring vegetation. To the south, the more arid Patagonian plains appear varying shades of tan and white, indicating the lack of vegetation over much of this area, especially in the central region.