Minimize South Patagonian Icefield

Often shrouded in clouds and mist, the entirety of the South Patagonian Icefield is rarely visible from space. This mosaic combines cloud-free images acquired by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 on 29 April, 01 and 24 May, 2016.

Patagonia is one of the windiest and wettest regions on Earth. Westerlies gain moisture and momentum as they cross the Pacific Ocean. When they reach South America, they ride up and over the Andes, through fjords, and across two icefields.

Having spent several field seasons on and around the South Patagonian Icefield, glaciologist Michele Koppes of the University of British Columbia knows first-hand the challenges posed by the elements. "The katabatic winds that drain down the eastern slopes can pick you and your heavy backpack right off your feet and turn you over like a turtle," Koppes said, a phenomenon she experienced a few times while trying to reach glaciers in Torres del Paine and Los Glaciares National Park. "The winds can blow tents right off their stakes and send them tumbling across lakes."

View the full resolution image.

Credit: NASA

South Patagonian Icefield


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