Argentina’s largest lake, Laguna Mar Chiquita, is a shallow salt lake that grows and shrinks significantly depending on the weather. In 2009, Argentina was still recovering from severe drought, and Laguna Mar Chiquita was correspondingly shrunken. The northern shore was entirely exposed on August 16, 2009, when the Moderate Resolution Imaging Spectroradiometer (MODIS) on NASA’s Aqua satellite captured this photo-like image. The low water level exposed fine lakebed sediment, which is easily lifted in the wind. Two thick plumes of dust blew from the northern shore across more than two hundred kilometers. The far northern ends of the plumes are lost in a bank of clouds.
Red boxes outline the locations of fires. Many of the fires are located in agricultural land, the tan and green squares north of the lake. Like the lake, these farms were likely impacted by drought. On July 10, 2009, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service reported that many farmers in the region did not plant wheat crops because of the dry weather. However, rain was in the forecast, said the Foreign Agricultural Service. El Niño could bring drought-breaking rain to Argentina.
One of the worst droughts in the past decade settled heavily over the Fertile Crescent region of Iraq and Syria in the winter of 2007-2008. Under normal conditions, winter rain and rivers flowing from the mountains of Turkey sustain the rich agricultural land that has fed humanity from the dawn of civilization. But little to no rain fell between October and December during the crucial planting period, and sparse rain fell in the months that followed, said the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Foreign Agricultural Service (FAS).