The climate system of the Southeast Pacific region
Click on image for full size
Robert Wood (University of Washington) and the VOCALS Scientific Working Group
Southeast Pacific Climate
There are a lot of clouds over the Southeast Pacific Ocean off the coasts of Peru and Chile in South America. In fact, this area has the largest amount of stratus and stratocumulus clouds in the world! These important clouds are part of the Southeast Pacific climate system. Other important parts of the climate system in this area include the Southeast Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountain Range. Scientists in the VOCALS field campaign are going to study this area so they can learn more about the Southeast Pacific Ocean.
The Andes Mountains form a pretty big barrier to the surface winds. flow parallel to the western coast of South America. The winds help bring deep, nutrient-rich waters to the surface. These cold waters help support the largest area of stratocumulus clouds found on the planet.
Strong winds from the west blow thousands of miles across the Pacific Ocean toward South America. When they reach land and run into the Andes Mountains, they are forced to turn north. The winds also push ocean surface water away from the coast to the west in a process scientists call Ekman transport. When the surface water is pushed west it is replaced by very cold water from deep in the ocean. This is known as upwelling.
Most of the air over the Southeast Pacific Ocean is very clean. However, copper smelters located in Chile and Peru produce aerosols. Aerosols can also be found naturally in the Southeast Pacific region from sea salt and plankton. Aerosols are known to impact how clouds are formed.
Shop Windows to the Universe Science Store!
Learn about Earth and space science, and have fun while doing it! The games
section of our online store
includes a climate change card game
and the Traveling Nitrogen game
You might also be interested in:
Stratus clouds are part of the Low Cloud group. They are gray and can cover most or all of the sky (like a big blanket). Stratus clouds sometimes produce light mist or drizzle. ...more
Stratocumulus clouds belong to the Low Cloud group. These clouds are low, lumpy, and gray. These clouds can look like cells under a microscope - sometimes they line up in rows and other times they spread...more
Sometimes scientists have to go far from home to find answers to their questions. Just like you, they have many questions, such as: What types of clouds form over the Pacific Ocean? What instruments should...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 places in the ocean where water from the deep sea travels up to the surface. These are called areas of upwelling. The deep waters can have a large influence on marine life and the climate too....more
When you look up at the sky, you are looking at more than just air. There are also billions of tiny bits of solid and liquid floating in the air. These tiny particles are called aerosols or particulates....more
Have you ever been to the ocean? If so, you know that ocean water has salt in it. But did you know that air has salt in it, too? Many types of tiny particles float around in the air. Scientists call these...more