This photo, taken from space, shows the Southeast Pacific Ocean on the left, with patches of stratocumulus clouds along the coast of South American. Moving to the right (east) one can see the low lying coastal Atacama Desert and the Andes Mountain Range.
Click on image for full size
Image Courtesy of NASA
The Andes Mountains
The Andes Mountains are one of the longest mountain ranges on Earth. This mountain range is over 7,000 km (4,400 miles) long and runs along the west coast of South America. The Andes include peaks above 6,000 meters (19,685 feet); many of these peaks are active volcanoes. The mountain range is part of seven countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and Venezuela .
The Andes form a huge barrier between the eastern Pacific Ocean and the rest of the continent of South America. This barrier impacts the climate of South America. The northern part of the Andes is typically rainy and warm. The west side of the central Andes is extremely dry and includes the Atacama Desert in northern Chile; the eastern part of the central Andes is much wetter. In the south, the western side of the Andes is very wet, and the eastern plains in the south are very dry. Many of the peaks in the Andes receive heavy snowfall and contain glaciers.
The forces of plate tectonics are responsible for the formation of the Andes. These processes continue today and cause earthquakes and volcanic eruptions in the region.
The Inca Empire started in the mountains of Peru in the early 13th century and spread throughout the Andes in the 1400s. The Incas built roads, aqueducts, and impressive cities throughout the mountain range. In the 1530s a civil war and exposure to European diseases destroyed most of the Inca Empire.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Our online store
includes fun classroom activities
for you and your students. Issues of NESTA's quarterly journal, The Earth Scientist
are also full of classroom activities on different topics in Earth and space science!
You might also be interested in:
How do you know to pack your bathing suit and sunhat for a trip to a tropical island or pack warm sweaters and coats for a trip to Alaska? If you know a little about regional climates, then you know what...more
The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth. The Atacama is in the country of Chile in South America. In an average year, this desert gets less than 1 millimeter (0.04 inch) of rain! It is...more
This page is not yet developed at the elementary level. Please check back for updates or click on the "Intermediate" button above for information....more
Many forces change the surface of the Earth over time. The largest force that changes our planetís surface is movement of Earth's outer layer in a process called plate tectonics. As shown in this picture,...more
The ground underfoot might seem like itís not going anywhere but it is. It moves. If it moves all of a sudden the ground shakes. Thatís an earthquake! Earthquakes happen as pieces of the Earthís crust...more
The winds in the Southeast Pacific mainly blow from south to north. They affect the weather and climate in the region. They also affect the climate in other places around the world. Air near the equator...more
There are many connections between the ocean and the atmosphere in the Southeast Pacific Ocean. Strong winds blow north along the coast of South America. These winds stir up the ocean. That brings cold...more