45 Atacama Desert Facts: History, Geography, Ecosystem And More | Kidadl


45 Atacama Desert Facts: History, Geography, Ecosystem And More

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The Atacama Desert is a large, habitable desert located in northern Chile.

It contains many relics from the past and helps Chile through tourism. As well as being a hub for tourism, it provides an interesting location for scientists to study.

The majority of this desert is located within Chile with little to no population on its extreme edges. These areas still remain unpopulated by human activity today, making the relics undistinguishable from those left behind by ancient peoples. There are not many resources that can be harvested from the Atacama desert region, however, there are some potential ones. There is mining in the few areas where minerals can be found. Furthermore, there is also some oil located in the northern part of the desert which has been exploited by various companies. The Atacama desert greatly affects chile through tourism. The arid region of this driest desert is close to the northern Chilean coast range. The rock pools, dry climate, sterile ground, stony terrain, and soil samples from this driest desert region is almost like a death zone to any flora and fauna. Although a few species could be found in this driest desert near to the Andes mountains. Some believe with the fall of the day the fresh air of the environment can truly be experienced.

Facts About The Atacama Desert

The majority of the Atacama desert landscape consists of barren rocks, salt flats, and other geologic formations.

  • The very center of the desert has mountains that are widely considered to be some of the oldest geological formations on Earth.
  • Sand dunes make up around five % of the Atacama desert, which is located in the north and south.
  • The lowest point is at sea level, while the peaks are up to a height of 6,582 ft (2006.19 m).
  • The elevation of this desert makes weather conditions extremely dry with little to no rainfall present.
  • There are no glaciers located within or around the Atacama desert.
  • The Atacama Desert is one of the driest deserts on Earth, receiving an average of 0.3 in (0.7 cm) of rainfall every year.
  • The Atacama desert is located in the southern hemisphere near the equator, which makes it very dry due to high amounts of solar radiation and low humidity.
  • Its elevation also contributes to its extremely dry environment.
  • The majority of the Atacama Desert landscape consists of barren rocks, salt flats, and other geologic formations.
  • The very center of the desert has mountains that are widely considered to be some of the oldest geological formations on Earth.
  • The majority of the land is not used for anything, and therefore it is primarily inhabited by fauna and flora that can survive in such a harsh environment.

Geographical Facts About Atacama Desert

The Atacama Desert is located in western South America, between Peru and Chile. It occupies the whole of northern Chile, along with a small part of Argentina.

  • The Pacific Ocean lies on its western border, while it also borders Peru and Bolivia.
  • The Andes Mountains run parallel to the Pacific Coastline in most parts of the Atacama Desert, making it one of the driest deserts in the world.
  • The climate of the Atacama Desert changes drastically depending on how high or low an area is.
  • Areas with astronomy infrastructure are higher than sea level and experience extremely cold temperatures, while areas in the lower parts are much warmer and experience much more humidity.
  • The weather conditions in the Atacama Desert are mainly controlled by high-pressure systems sitting over the Pacific Ocean, which is why there is very little rainfall between October and March.
  • The Andes Mountains run parallel to the Pacific Ocean, but are not within or connected to the Atacama Desert.
  • Although it varies depending on weather conditions, most of the time sand dunes in the Atacama Desert are between 328.08-65.61 ft (20-100 m) tall. The highest sand dunes on Earth can be found within the Atacama Desert and are over 803.80 ft (245 m) tall.
  • The Atacama Desert is the largest desert in Chile covering approximately 62137 sq mi (100,000 sq km). It runs parallel to the Andes Mountains along the west border of Chile.
  • The temperature in the Atacama Desert reaches up to 158 F (70 C) during the summertime. During winter, it is common for temperatures to drop below freezing at night; however, that does not stop some life from continuing to survive there.
  • At the higher elevations of the Atacama, due to its high altitude, it can be relatively colder than at sea level. It is not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing during the winter months.
  • The Atacama Desert is known to reach extremely cold temperatures between June and August, where the average temperature reaches 39 F (4 C) but this can fall as low as 19 F (-7 C).
  • The Atacama Desert is the only place in South America where temperatures have fallen to 14 F (-10 C) or below.
The Atacama Desert is the oldest desert with an extreme ecosystem.

Atacama Desert's History

Ancient indigenous cultures inhabited areas of the Atacama Desert from 12,000 BC-700 AD.

  • One of the most important civilizations that called this desert home was a pre-Incan civilization called the Chinchorro People. They created some of the earliest mummies, which has led many researchers to study them and learn about their way of life.
  • Other ancient civilizations included the Atacameos and Changos, who used irrigation to increase the fertility of the land in order to farm crops.
  • Ancient civilizations would have had more sustainable populations in the Atacama. Due to its high fertility rates. This allowed for larger civilizations to form and, thus, history was made here.
  • The Incas used irrigation to farm crops and increase the fertility of the land.
  • The Inca civilization controlled the area from 1450 AD-1541 AD when it was invaded by Spanish colonizers.
  • By this point, all remnants of indigenous people have completely destroyed.
  • Relics in the Atacama Desert consist of dwellings, tools, pottery, animal bones, and more. The most notable location containing these relics is the archaeological site 'El Molle'.
  • Many of the challenges that modern-day residents face were faced by ancient civilizations. The Atacama Desert is an extremely dry desert, which would make it very difficult for large populations to survive unless they had some sort of irrigation.
  • The mountainous landscape in the center of the desert makes it challenging to travel and farm, which may also have been a factor in sustaining smaller populations.
  • The Atacama Desert formed approximately 10–15 million years ago when the Andes were uplifted and block faulted. However, archaeological evidence of human activity in this area dates back to around 12,000 BC.

Atacama Desert's Ecosystem

The Atacama Desert's geographical location and extreme climate make it one of the most fascinating places on Earth. This desert has a very unique ecosystem in comparison to other deserts around the world.

  • The Atacama Desert is home to approximately 85 species of birds, including three endemic species and 17 threatened species.
  • There are many lizards in the Atacama Desert, including 21 endemic species of lizard that do not exist anywhere else on Earth.
  • Endemic animal species include seven types of amphibians and two types of mammals within the desert's ecosystem, which is incredibly unique given its location.
  • The high-altitude saltwater lakes found in the Atacama Desert are home to algae, brine shrimp, and pink flamingos.
  • The Atacama Desert is one of the few places on Earth where you can find fossils of animals that still exist today at the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles, California.
  • UNESCO has declared the Atacama Desert's 'Salar de Atacama' to be a protected area of scientific interest.
  • There are more than 277 species of flora in the desert, which is home to the highest sand dunes on Earth. Of all these plants, there are approximately 70 types of cacti and three types of wild potato.
  • The Atacama Desert is the only place in the world where four different species of flamingo can be found living together.
  • The Atacama Desert is one of the only places on Earth where you can find a 'jellyfish lake' filled with brine shrimp and salps offshore.
  • The Dead Sea is known for being the lowest point on Earth above sea level, while the Atacama Desert is home to numerous mountain peaks that are much higher than the Dead Sea. In 2010, UNESCO named the area a Biosphere Reserve, mainly due to its exceptional biodiversity and significance from both a scientific and geological perspective.
  • Groundwater reserves are very scarce in the Atacama Desert, which is one of the reasons why more than half of its flora does not have any leaves.
  • The Atacama desert has experienced severe droughts in the region since records began, with the longest-lasting drought lasting more than 100 years between 200-500 AD.
  • The Atacama Desert is known as 'Mars on Earth' for its similarities in landscape and climate, providing a unique opportunity for researchers to study possible extraterrestrial life.
Kidadl Team
Written By
Kidadl Team

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