Flowering Desert – Atacama (2015)

Flowering Desert - Atacama (2015)

The flowering desert (Spanish: desierto florido) is a climatic phenomenon that occurs in the Atacama Desert, Chile. The phenomenon consists of the blossoming of a wide variety of flowers between the months of September and November in years when rainfall is unusually high. Normally the region receives less than 12 mm (0.47 in) of rain a year.

The blossoming occurs when the unusual level of rainfall reach the seeds and bulbs that have been in a latent or dormant state and causes them to germinate and flower in early spring. It is accompanied by the proliferation of insects, birds and small species of lizard. At its height, the phenomenon can be seen from just south of the city of Vallenar to just north of the city of Copiapó throughout the coastal valleys and Chilean Coast Range from September to November.

Climatically, the event is related to the El Niño phenomenon, a band of anomalously warm ocean water temperatures that occasionally develops off the western coast of South America, which can lead to an increase in evaporation and therefore precipitation.

The flowering desert is a popular tourist attraction with tourists visiting the phenomenon from various points around the southern Atacama, including Huasco, Vallenar, La Serena, Copiapó and Caldera. Photo: Carlos Aguilar/AFP

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