Atacama snow

Fri, 08 Jul 2011 13:58:55 PDT
Dea Jane,

I'm still looking for rainfall specific data. Here is the situation from
Copiapo, pretty far north, in the middle of the Copiapoa catus region and
about 30 km from the coast.…
That's all I can find so far. But, it does appear to be raining, with more
in sight for the next week. Very unusual for the area. Promising, I'd say.

The flowers in northern Chile were magnificent in July and August last year,
but still good in September. Really unusual to have two years in a row. 

San Diego

Andrew wrote,
>Some of you may have heard of the recent heavy snowfall (80 cm. or 30 
>inches or so) on the Atacama desert recently. That is indeed a rare 
>event. Coming after a previous year where some parts of Atacama had 
>exceptional rains, this might make it an interesting time to go see 
>some bulbs. But first, I would like to see more specifics.

I was there some years ago after a good precipitation year -- you could see
where water had flowed along usually dry drainages. I wonder where this
recent snow was, though? The desert itself -- the part between the coastal
hills and the puna, or high steppe -- has almost no vegetation at any time.
The Desierto Florido (flowering
desert) is most prominent at the southern margin, around Vallenar, for
instance. The greatest floral diversity is on the coast and in the nearby
hills and canyons. If the precipitation was in the eastern uplands, one
wonders how far its influence would extend.

If a Desierto Florido is indeed in the offing, I'm going next October. Three
friends and I made an attempt a couple of years ago but the promised El
Ni~no had fizzled out, and we saw little on the coast, partly because the
g--d-m goatherds had brought their flocks down to the coast to munch on the
Alstroemerias. We ended up retreating to the south.

Early October was a very good time to arrive to see the flowers of the Zona
Norte. I have a talk I give on that trip, but the photos are on slides, not
digital, so I can't offer copies. It was a dream trip for me, even though my
companion was a geologist who kept complaining about how boring the rocks
were, and how overcautious my driving was
-- until SHE got the truck stuck. In addition to lots of photos, I got the
t-shirt: with Leontochir ovallei on it, and the bumper sticker with "Yo
estuve en el Desierto FLorido."

Incidentally, in addition to bulbs and a huge diversity of Alstroemeria,
there are scads of cacti in the area, from miniature chollas that leap onto
your pant legs to stately columnar species. 
Also, as one would expect in an arid region, many showy annuals--which are
what the CHilean tourists come to see and photograph their children standing
in flowery fields, just like southern California. The traffic, however, is
much less than in Death Valley.

And the seafood is great, and the wine is cheap. Vamos!

Jane McGary
Portland, Oregon, USA

More information about the pbs mailing list