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Atacama Desert

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Bricelyn Tatum

on 18 December 2013

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Transcript of Atacama Desert

photo credit Nasa / Goddard Space Flight Center / Reto Stöckli
Atacama Desert
The Atacama Desert is a plateau in South America, covering a 1,000-kilometre (600 mi) strip of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes mountains.
The faulted coastal mountains (mostly 500 to 1000 m high) are composed of Cretaceous sediments (limestone and sandstone) over more ancient masses of crystalline rocks. The Atacama Desert is considered to be one of the driestcoastal deserts in the world. Vegetation must contend with an annual rainfall of 0.6 millimetres (mm) in Arica and 2.1 mm in Iquique. The Atacama becomes slightly less arid as it moves southward. The average monthly temperatures in Iquique range from 14.5°C in September to 21°C in March. Further limiting plant growth is the extremely low total organic carbon and nitrogen content of the Atacama soils; for example, total organic carbon levels are lower than those of the Sahara Desert and the Mojave Desert by significant amounts.
Human-Environmental Interactions
Two years ago, it rained at the Atacama desert. Although a desert, the Atacama is attractive to people many people. Vacationers who visit the desert are almost guaranteed sunny skies, no rain and a mild summer. Astronomers visit to study the night sky without threat of cloud cover. The desolate landscape has also stood in for Mars in several movies and documentaries, and scientists have even recreated the tests performed on Mars in the Atacama. The dry desert air preserves everything, allowing the potential for study, and, until recently, pace of change in the area has been very slow. Unfortunately, the true wealth of Atacama lies not in its preserved states but in its natural resources: copper, sodium chloride, sodium nitrate and iodine salts. With the price of copper rising during the 1980s, many mines in the area were reactivated. Road construction associated with mining has also been on the rise, people are moving into the area, and all this is bringing urbanization and its associated problems to the desert. Mining also requires a vast supply of water, pulled from the groundwater, which is a threat to the marshes and salt lakes.
It covers about 1000 km of land on the Pacific coast, west of the Andes Mountains. Its length is about 450 km, width up to 100 km, is located about 500-2000 m above sea level.
It’s a coastal desert. These deserts occur in moderately cool to warm areas such as the Nearctic and Neotropical realm.The cool winters of coastal deserts are followed by moderately long, warm summers. The average summer temperature ranges from 13-24° C; winter temperatures are 5° C or below. The maximum annual temperature is about 35° C and the minimum is about -4° C. In Chile, the temperature ranges from -2 to 5° C in July and 21-25° C in January.
The average rainfall measures 8-13 cm in many areas. The maximum annual precipitation over a long period of years has been 37 cm with a minimum of 5 cm.

Works Cited











Lampasas ISD library pages: Image Database
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