A Salt Bath in Bolivia

by | Mar 1, 2022

Bolivia's Salar de Uyuni is the largest salt flat (or playa) in the world. For much of the year, it stretches out in a seemingly endless expanse of white, with a salt crust covering 10,000 square kilometers (4,000 square miles). During the rainy season, water can fill part of the salt flat and give it a stunning, mirror-like appearance. In early 2022, that watery mirror grew larger and lingered longer than it has in several years.

The extent of the filling of Salar de Uyuni this year is above normal. The rainy season started earlier than previous years, and rainfall was well above average over the southern Altiplano, said hydrologist Jorge Molina Carpio of the Universidad Mayor de San Andrés. This was probably related to the onset of a significant La Niña event. Strong La Niñas during the rainy season are related to positive rainfall anomalies in the southern Altiplano.

This natural-color image was acquired on Jan. 31, 2022, by the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8. Note the discoloration of the water and the salt flat, which could be due to a combination of runoff, volcanic sediments, and microbes or algae thriving in the water.

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory images by Lauren Dauphin, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey and NASA Earth Observatory image by NAME, using MODIS data from NASA EOSDIS LANCE and GIBS/Worldview.


April Issue 2024