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Epic Atacama Desert Facts That'll Change Your Perception Completely

Atacama Desert Facts
We have explained you the attributes of Atacama desert and have elaborated on its climate, geographical location, flora and fauna, etc. Read the article to find out the Atacama desert facts.
Saptakee Sengupta
Last Updated: Feb 20, 2018
Geographical Location
Atacama desert location
Geographical calculations show that Atacama desert lies 30° south of the equator, extending few kilometers from south of Chile Peru border. The coastal region of southern Peru is considered to be a part of the Atacama desert. It mostly occupies northern Chile, lying just next to the Pacific ocean. This region is composed of dense lava, sand, and salt basins. A substantial part of the desert extends till the Andes mountain.
Atacama desert temperature
One of the facts about Atacama desert that leave us astonished is its climate. The place is pretty cold despite being the driest desert and the temperature ranges between 0°C to 25°C. The annual rainfall in this area is less than 0.004 inches/0.01cm of rain per year. Since the desert lies between Andes mountain in the east and Chile coast to the west, this region has rain shadow effect and is deprived of moisture.
Water Bodies
Salt lake Salar de Tara
In the distant past, sometimes during rains, a few water basins were formed throughout the Andes, which got transformed into lakes. With passage of time, lakes started drying up, leaving behind concentrated salty water.
Snow and Fog
atacama desert under snow
At very high altitude there is snowfall instead of rain. The cold desert is filled with dense fog which is blown from the Pacific Ocean. They condense to form dew which is the only source of moisture.
Flora and Fauna
flamingos on lake
Plants do not grow in this region as the desert is covered with marine fog. However, some species of cacti, algae, and lichen are found. Seagulls, penguins, pelicans, and flamingos dwell in the coastal regions. The animal kingdom comprises mice, fox, deer, and Llamas.
Human Habitation
altiplano village machuca
San Pedro de Atacama is a small village located in the oasis which is found in the middle of the desert. This region is sparsely populated. Historical evidences show that Atacameno tribe ruled this place during pre-Hispanic times. The Pan American Highway is built across the Atacama desert that runs in the north-south trajectory.
Why Atacama Desert is the Driest Desert?
sands of atacama desert chile
The scientific causes related with its geographic location, makes it the driest desert in the world. A rain shadow region is present on the leeward side of the Andes mountain and Chile coast. Due to the cold offshore Humboldt current, a coastal inversion is created which makes this region drier than any other place in the world. Other factors contributing the dry climate are, anticyclone of the Pacific ocean, marine fog shadow, absence of rainfall, and presence of permafrost at high altitudes.
Some More Interesting Facts
Atacama desert, a 15 million years old desert, located in south America stretches over 1000 kilometers. It is a strip of land that lies on the Pacific coast of South America and west of the Andes mountains. Atacama desert is a virtually rainless plateau and has been confirmed as the driest desert in the world from a survey conducted by NASA. The desert did not receive rainfall between the period 1570-1971. The river beds are dry since 12,000 years. Atacama desert has the largest supply of sodium nitrate. Similar kind of soil is present in Atacama desert as that found on Mars by The Phoenix Mars Lander. The soil is rich in perchlorate and nitrates. Oldest mummies have been discovered in the Atacama desert.
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