El Niño Paints the World's Driest Place with Color

58.70% credibility

Something Truly Beautiful Is Happening At This Animal Shelter

298 points

Animal cruelty exposed as World Animal Protection uncovers top 10 worst wildlife attractions

698 points

Most recent

Woman divorced after 44 years of marriage gets amazing makeover

Amazing histories
172 points

Malaria-sniffing pooches might help save lives

About pets
166 points

Kindergarten kids sing Happy Birthday with sign language for their deaf custodian

Amazing histories
156 points

Don't miss: the best Key West Bar Crawl guide

Random Time
112 points

New study says that colored bird eggs come from dinosaurs

Technology news
196 points
Colorful fields of pink, purple, and white currently coat the sandy soil of north Chile’s Atacama desert, one of the driest regions in the world.

El Niño Paints the World's Driest Place with Color

No, it’s not a camera trick or a fancy Instagram filter. The vibrant coat blanketing the normally bare desert ground is made of hundreds of millions of flowers, germinating and flowering in record numbers after bouts of unusual rain.

The phenomenon, called a “desierto florido” (desert in bloom), happens once every five to seven years, according to Pedro León Lobos, a botanist with Chile’s Institute of Agriculture and Livestock Research (IRA). The blooming corresponds with El Niño’s periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of northern Chile.

The warmer waters alter the flow of air across the region, dealing potentially dramatic changes to the area’s rainfall patterns. Normally, the Atacama desert is one of the world’s driest locations, on average getting less than 4 millimeters of rain per year. But unusually strong rains in late March dumped seven years’ worth of rain virtually overnight on the region, causing major floods that killed at least seven people.

The devastating storms kickstarted the germination of millions of seeds of annual plants, some of which bloomed in patches across the Atacama in March. Further storms in August supercharged the flowers’ growth, and more began to bloom in late September — a rare “double bloom” unlike anything in recent memory.

The vibrant floral display also underscores the barren region’s deceptively hidden richness: The extreme conditions disguise nearly 1,900 species of plants and animals, over a third of which can only be found in the Atacama desert. Yet Chilean national parks only offer partial protection of the remote region, despite its biodiversity.

“Only two or three months before these beautiful pictures, [the landscape] looked completely bare,” says Michael Way, a conservationist with the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, who traveled to the Atacama in June with the Millennium Seed Bank Partnership. “The contrast really is the evidence that those areas are precious and wonderful.”

Fuente: news.nationalgeographic.com
To comment you must log in with your account or sign up!
Featured content