Ordinarily, flashes of white rise from salt pans in South America’s Atacama Desert. But on July 7, 2011, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on the Terra satellite acquired theses images, the white came from a far rarer commodity: snow. A cold front dumped up to 80 centimeters of snow (32 inches) on the desert, reported BBC News. These images show the rare snowfall.
The top image provides a photo-like, natural color view of the snow. A few clouds hang over the white desert, marring the view slightly. The lower image, which includes both visible and infrared light, helps distinguish between snow and clouds. Snow is dark red, while clouds are lighter shades of orange and white.
NASA images courtesy the MODIS Rapid Response Team at NASA GSFC. Caption by Holli Riebeek.