Lake Titicaca, Bolivia and Peru (NASA, June 1993).
The largest freshwater lake in South America, can be seen in this low-oblique,
southeast-looking photograph. Lake Titicaca is located in a depression in the
Altiplano (high plains) between the eastern (greenish, forest-covered mountains
east of the lake, partially obscured by clouds) and the western (brownish area
west of the lake with numerous volcanic peaks) range of the Andes Mountains.
Lake Titicaca covers an area of 3200 square miles (8300 km˛), is nearly 120
miles (190 km) long, and has an average width of 45 miles (72 km). Fed by many
mountain streams that border the Altiplano, the lake is drained only by the
Desaguadero River, which flows south into Lake Poopó (not visible in the
photograph). Water levels can vary as much as 16 feet (5 meters) from season to
season and year to year. Much of the lake water is lost through evaporation
caused by intense sunshine and strong winds. Since the late 1980s, drought has
plagued this region of the Altiplano, causing water levels in the lake to drop
below normal. The whitish areas scattered around the lakeshore are newly exposed
lake bottom areas. A small tail-like portion at the northern end of the lake
(visible in the photograph) has been cut off from the main body of the lake
because the water level has receded. Drastic drops in water level in the lake
could eventually affect the moderating climate of this high-altitude lake 12 500
feet (3800 meters) above sea level, which could lead to reduced agricultural
crop yields. The agricultural crops of wheat and maize help sustain many Indians
that live along Lake Titicaca’s shores.
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