The Southeast Pacific Region
The Southeast Pacific (SEP) region contains a variety of landscapes and weather conditions. The SEP includes the land that is on the coastal side of the Andes mountains in the central and northern parts of Chile and much of Peru. This extremely diverse region of South America extends from equatorial Peru south to central Chile.
The climate of the SEP is influenced by numerous factors. This dry area is cooled by the Humboldt Current and upwelling, which produces one of the largest fisheries in the world. Periodically, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) causes shifts in winds and ocean currents. These changes can cause extremes amounts of precipitation and flooding, droughts, and reductions in the amount of upwelling along the coast. The towering Andes cause winds to flow along the coast rather than east across the continent.
The coast of Peru and northern Chile consists of a subtropical desert climate. The land in this region rises up vertically from the ocean; this topography helps trap the coastal fog that often forms over the cold ocean waters. Fog is common in the area, and the only precipitation is an occasional light drizzle. Beyond these coastal bluffs is the Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on the Earth. The Atacama Desert contains great mineral wealth, especially copper.
Central Chile has a mild, temperate Mediterranean climate. Rainfall increases towards the south and numerous rivers flow in this region due to winter rainfall along the coast and spring snowmelt in the Andes. This part of Chile also contains a coastal mountain range that runs parallel to the Andes and creates the Central Valley.
Chile has a number of island territories located in the Pacific Ocean, including Easter Island. Easter Island is located 3,600 km (2,237 miles) off the coast of Chile and has a humid, subtropical climate.