Geography, climate and weather in Chile - The Traveller


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Geography, climate and weather in Chile


Few countries in the world indeed offer such a wide variety of scenery on a narrow strip of land, long 4300 km and an average width of 180 km, succeed deserts and lagoons, salares (salt lakes) and canyons, oasis , active volcanoes, lakes, fjords, glaciers, islands ...

Wedged between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes, the country stretches from Peru to Tierra del Fuego. Bordered to the north-east by Bolivia, it is with Argentina that Chile shares its longest border: 3 500 km winding through the mountain range.

Easter Island and Juan Fernández Archipelago (including its famous island called Robinson Crusoe) are also part of the territory, and Chile also claims part of Antarctic territory.

The Andes

Backbone of the continent, the Cordillera extends from Colombia to Tierra del Fuego, separating Chile from Bolivia and Argentina. Along an inclined plane, it rises gradually to the highlands of the Altiplano (around 4000 m), area of
​​the vicuna. It is dotted with peaks over 6000 m, some of which are active volcanoes.

Chile totaled 150 volcanoes considered active (2 085 in all), or 10% of the world. The many hot springs, geysers, fumaroles are directly related to the intense volcanic activity, reflecting the position of Chile on the Pacific Ring of Fire.

The further down south, plus the height of the peaks decreases. In the Patagonian region, the Cordillera is fragmented into isolated massifs and dislocated by innumerable islands. Cape Horn, she disappears into the sea

Mountains and highlands occupy 80% of the total land area.

Five geographic regions

- Norte Grande: Arica to Chañaral, this region is dominated by the Atacama Desert, the driest in the world. Parallel to the coast lies a mountain range, an average width of 50 km and 1500 m high, which forms a barrier to camanchaca (mist) of the ocean. Next is a longitudinal depression about 2000 m altitude. Oases irrigated by meltwater from Andean peaks dot this vast desert.

- Norte Chico Chañaral of the river Aconcagua, is the transition region between the northern deserts and the rain area in the South. Semi-desert and cut by transverse valleys, it is a region of great contrasts between the Cordillera, deserts and fertile valleys. Occasionally, the exceptional rains brought by El Niño give rise to a unique phenomenon: the Desierto Florido.

- Central Chile: Central Valley has a Mediterranean climate, making it a very fertile area, where vines and fruit trees flourish. Are there 75% of the total population and most major cities, including Santiago and Valparaiso.

- La Araucania and Lakes region: south of Santiago, started the Lake, covered with forests, meadows and lakes. The beautiful is the Araucania region of Mapuche Indians. Off Puerto Montt, Chiloe Island, the largest in the country, is renowned for its inclement weather.

- Patagonia and Tierra del Fuego: the extreme south of Chile. Beautiful and wild regions where climatic conditions are extreme. As one goes south, there are more swarms of islands and islets separated by rugged fjords. In the end, cut off from the mainland by the Strait of Magellan, Tierra del Fuego, divided between Chile and Argentina, is covered with snow from April to November. Not to mention the island Navarino last step before the mythical Cape Horn Archipelago.

- The Pacific Islands include Easter Island (the most isolated of the Pacific, 3760 km from Chile) and the Juan Fernández archipelago, which lies only 670 km from the coast.


Extending from north to south over nearly 4,300 km, Chile is experiencing climate extremes: it dries in the sun in the Atacama Desert (the driest in the world!) And you shiver in the rain in the south the country where the climate, windy, wet and is very influenced by cold air masses from Antarctica.

- Chile is located in the southern hemisphere, the seasons are reversed compared to Europe: it's winter in July-August, and it's summer in January-February.

- In addition to the length of the country, particularly two elements influence the climate. The presence of the cold Humboldt sea current in the Pacific Ocean, produced a thick coastal fog, the camanchaca, when it encounters the warm lands. The mountain ranges cause significant climate changes within the country.

El Nino

This weather phenomenon occurs on average every 5 years. It happened again for more weakly, but more frequently, most recently in 2009-2010. In the Pacific trade winds blow from areas of high atmospheric pressure the western coasts of the Americas to Indonesia and northern Australia. Crossing the ocean, the winds become loaded with moisture and, on the other side arrived, they release it as rain - also indirectly feeding the Indian monsoon. Dry, air masses leave high altitude towards the east. It's like a conveyor belt that drives the water from east to west on the surface, and from west to east at depth.

The Bolivian invierno

From January to March, the weather phenomenon called "Bolivian winter" occurs every year in the austral summer in the north. Sometimes violent rains pour over northern Chile. They can be accompanied by hail and snow. The wettest areas are generally areas of Putre, Belen, Colchane, Surire, and Chungara Visviri. So that within the driest desert in the world, in midsummer, suddenly it's raining!


- If you want to go trekking in Patagonia, the best time is the period from late November to early March. However, one should expect rain, even in summer.

- In the far north, the weather is nice almost all year round, with high temperatures in January-February and the possibility of rain in the Cordillera; related invierno boliviano, which can sometimes cut the roads.

- For fans of skiing, guaranteed snow in central and south between mid May and mid-October, peaking in July and August.

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