Dust streams from Lago Colhué Huapi in Argentina  • Earth.com

Dust streams from Lago Colhué Huapi in Argentina 

Today’s Image of the Day from NASA Earth Observatory features dust streaming from Lago Colhué Huapi, a shallow endorheic lake located in the Chubut Province in southern Argentina.

“Strong northwesterly winds often race down the eastern side of the Andes Mountains and whip across the central Patagonian Desert. In the process, they sometimes lift dust from Argentina’s drying Lago Colhué Huapi, fueling intense dust storms,” said NASA.

“Lago Colhué Huapi is a particularly rich source of dust because the shallow lake regularly grows and shrinks with variations in the flow of the Senguer River and the pace of evaporation. When lake water levels are low, as they were when MODIS captured this image, fine-grained, lightweight particles are easily transported by the wind.”

Dust activity from Lago Colhué Huapi

Dust storms in this region are most common during the summer months from December to March. There are 15 to 30 dust storms in a typical year. 

“Dust storms are frequent and persistent enough in this area that they have exposed an open-air archaeological site along the lake’s edge,” said NASA.

“The Puesto Roberts 1 site, located in an old floodplain on the southeast side of Lago Colhué Huapi, was first identified in 2019 when archaeologists noticed that winds had exposed a five-centimeter layer of sandy loam soil littered with stone tools and the bones of a wild species of llama called guanaco.”

“Archaeologists identified 427 artifacts at the site – including stone cutting blades, milling tools, scrapers, and egg-shaped bola stones used for hunting – spread across 15 square meters, according to a 2022 study led by Heidi Hammond, an archaeologist at the National University of the Patagonia San Juan Bosco.”

More about Lago Colhué Huapi

This lake is an interesting geographical feature primarily because it acts as a seasonal sink for the Senguerr River, which in turn gathers waters from various smaller streams in the region. 


Due to its shallow nature, the size of Lago Colhué Huapi can vary significantly with the seasons and the amount of water it receives from its sources. During times of drought or reduced rainfall, the lake can shrink considerably, affecting the local ecosystem and the wildlife that depends on it.


The lake’s surroundings are characterized by a semi-arid climate, which influences the type of vegetation and animal life that can thrive in the area. Despite the harsh conditions, the region around Lago Colhué Huapi supports a variety of bird species, making it a site of interest for birdwatchers and naturalists.

Environmental challenges

In recent years, Lago Colhué Huapi has faced environmental challenges, including the impact of climate change, which has led to lower water levels and increased salinity. These changes pose threats to the lake’s ecological balance and the species that inhabit its waters and shores. The situation at Lago Colhué Huapi serves as a reminder of the broader environmental issues facing water bodies in arid and semi-arid regions around the world.

The image was captured on March 29, 2024 by the MODIS (Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer) on NASA’s Aqua satellite.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory


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