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Winds along the west coast of South America blow from south to north.
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Image courtesy of Ron Woods.

Winds in the Southeast Pacific

The winds in the Southeast Pacific mainly blow from south to north. They have a strong effect on the climate in the region and worldwide.

The winds in this area get their start with a major flow in the atmosphere called the Hadley cell. The Hadley cell is formed when warm air rises near the equator and comes back down around 30° South latitude. It then flows back northward towards the equator along the surface. The Coriolis effect turns the winds towards the northwest. These southeast to northwest winds are called the trade winds. The high "wall" of the Andes Mountains helps to steer the winds along the coast and makes them pretty strong. They are sometimes called the "coastal jet".

The air in these winds is very dry. The dry winds help create the Atacama Desert in Chile, which is one of the driest places on Earth. The strong winds also help stir up the ocean. They also help bring cold water from deep in the ocean to the surface. The atmosphere and the ocean in this area are connected in many ways. The strong winds also carry aerosol particles from industries in South America out to sea. The aerosol particles change how clouds form in the area.

The winds in the Southeast Pacific don't just affect the local weather and climate. They also affect climate over a large part of the world. These winds are a big part of the cause of El Niño and La Niña.

Last modified October 27, 2008 by Randy Russell.

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