ATACAMA DESERT (Syllabus: GS Paper 1 – Geography)

News-CRUX-10     26th April 2024        

Context: Researchers recently made the groundbreaking discovery of thriving microbes 13 feet beneath the scorched surface of Chile's Atacama Desert, marking the deepest exploration of microbial life in the region so far.

Atacama Desert

  • Location: Northern Chile: Nestled between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean.
  • Borders: Argentina, Peru, and Bolivia.
  • Volcanoes: Hosts 12 volcanoes, mainly located in the western outliers of the Andes.
  • Driest Desert: The Atacama Desert is the driest nonpolar desert in the world, as well as the only true desert to receive less precipitation than the polar deserts.
  • Resources and Utilization:

o Sodium Nitrate: Largest natural supply, used for various purposes including fertilizer and explosives.

o Soil Similarity to Mars: Soil samples resemble those from Mars, leading NASA to use the desert for testing instruments for missions to the red planet.

Why is the Atacama Desert so dry?

  • Geographic Location: The first reason is that the desert sits on the wrong side of the Andes with regards to prevailing winds.
  • Atmospheric Conditions: The second reason is high air pressure.
  • Influence of Ocean Currents: The last reason is the cold Humboldt Current from the Pacific Ocean.