How the Humboldt Current Affects your South America Vacation
The cold-water, nutrient-rich Humboldt Current runs from the south of Chile north to Peru and Ecuador. Find out how this may affect your South America vacation.
The Humboldt Current runs along the coast of South America. From the southern tip of Chile, the current flows north to Peru and Ecuador. Then it veers west towards the equator where it affects the Galapagos Islands. The current is characterized by cold temperatures, low salinity levels, and extreme richness in nutrients. The extensive shallow zones along the coast combine with low oxygen levels to produce an abundance of marine wildlife. This is most evident in fish populations. Although the current occupies just a fraction of the earth's ocean surface - less than 1% - it produces around 18 to 20% of the world's total marine catches, including species of sardine, anchovies, and mackerel.
The current has an overall cooling effect on the climate of Chile, Peru, and Ecuador. Its most significant effect is that is cools marine air, which results in reduced precipitation all along the coast. In this winter, the current also produces marine fog and humid conditions along the coast. Read on to find out how these patterns may affect your South America vacation plans in Chile, Peru, and Ecuador.
In Chile, the Humboldt Current results in seasonal upswelling. This occurs in the spring and summer months. The current produces the extremely arid conditions characteristic of northern Chile. In the northeast, the Atacama Desert is the driest desert in the world, with almost no moisture. Some weather stations in the region have recorded no precipitation for several decades. On the central coast, south of Santiago in the Valdivia region, this pattern produces fog and humidity in the winter months.
Peru has an amazing diversity of climates, which are jointly determined by the Humboldt Current as well as the Andes mountains. In contrast to Chile, the Peruvian coast experiences permanent upswelling, and like Chile, results in arid coastal areas. In the summer, coasts are warm and semi-arid, whereas winters are cool and humid. As the current flows from south to north, the upper coasts of Peru become less arid. Whereas regions in the south have very little precipitation, the northern coastal regions, namely the Tumbes region, do experience a rainy season. Garua is the local term for the misty fog that lasts throughout the winter. Conditions in Ecuador are similar, except from January to April, when the coast is particularly hot and rainy.
For travel to Galapagos Islands, the Humboldt Current is one of 5 currents that mix here, and each affects the predominant climate on the islands, causing variations in water and air temperature and producing the unique ecology of the islands. The Humboldt Current arrives to the archipelago in summer and fall, cools water and air temperature, and is strongest in September, resulting in choppy surface water, increased rainfall, and subtropical climate, and coinciding with increased sightings of green sea turtles, sharks, and mantas. When interacting with winds from the southeast, the HC creates garua, which affects the highlands and sometime shore.
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