Sunday, March 29, 2015

Atacama Desert in Chile, the world driest place gets heavy rainfall after 80 years

World Driest Place

It's hard to overstate just how arid the Atacama, a plateau on the coast of northern Chile, really is. The Andes Mountains work like a 13,000-foot-high wall, completely blocking systems of moist air that might otherwise wander down from the Amazon Basin. As a result, the entire Atacama, a strip of land 1,000 miles wide, is virtually rainless.

Arica, one of the desert's largest cities, receives an average annual rainfall of 0.76 mm, about the height of a flea egg.

There are weather stations in the Atacama that have never recorded any rain. The town of Calama went without a single drop of rain from 1570 to 1971—more than 400 years.

Historic Rainfall after 80 years in March 2015

The area had seen years of drought, with the last major rainfall in 1997. But this year march rainfall are the heaviest in 80 years.

Thunderstorms brought the equivalent of 7 years of rain to Chile's Atacama desert region and caused deadly flooding on last week of March, 2015.

Antofagasta, Chile, where the annual average precipitation is 2 mm, saw 24 mm of rain in 12 hours.

Communities in the desert region were struggling to cope with a disaster that knocked out power and cut off roadways. Thunderstorms with torrential rains moved into the Atacama, causing the Copiapo river to overflow its banks.

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