The Atacama Desert

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The Atacama Desert Abstract Exclusive of the largest mountain ranges and oceans, earth’s most well-known physical features are its great desert regions. The word desert often conjures up ideas of open expanses of sand and towering dunes blown by perpetual wind and dust storms. Moreover, deserts are often categorized as being strictly sandy, hot, and extremely dry. Only part of this assumption is correct. Furthermore, the categorizing of deserts as such illustrates how little knowledge many people in fact have of desert regions of the earth. The notion that all deserts are hot and sandy is especially erroneous. The surrounding landforms, air temperature, and soil composition have no bearing on whether or not a climate region is classified as a dessert. The sole characteristic used in classifying climate regions as a desert is aridity; a lack of moisture (Cressy 390). Deserts can be defined as regions where less than 10 inches of liquid equivalent precipitation falls each year. A better definition is any climatic region where evaporation substantially exceeds precipitation for most of the year (Cressey 390). Thus, based on this definition it is clear that deserts are not regulated to hot low latitude regions of the earth. Deserts are found at all latitudes, and encompass all air temperature ranges found on earth. Deserts types range from hot hyper-arid deserts such as the Sahara to less known and rather unusual cool coastal deserts such as the Atacama. Although the Atacama does embody hyper-arid characteristics, the Atacama Desert is generally classified as a cool coastal desert. The remainder of this paper will focus specifically on the physical characteristics of the Atacama Desert. Topography Located in northern Chile... ... middle of paper ... ...tley, Adrian J. “150 million years of climatic stability: evidence from the Atacama Desert, northern Chile.” Journal of the Geological Society 162.3 (2005):421-. Kampf, Stephanie K. "Evaporation and land surface energy budget at the Salar de Atacama, Northern Chile." Journal of Hydrology 310.1-4 (2005):236-. Lamb, Simon. “Cenozoic climate change as a possible cause for the rise of the Andes.” Nature 425.6960 (2003):792-. Light, Mary. “Atacama Revisited: “Desert Trails” Seen from the Air.” Geographical Review 36.4 (1946):525-545. Mooney. “Atmospheric Water Uptake by an Atacama Desert Shrub.” Science 209.4457 (1980):693-694. Oppenheimer, Robert. "National Capital and National Development: Financing Chile." The Business History Review 56.1 (1982):54-75. Rudolph, William. “The Rio Loa of Northern Chile.” Geographical Review 17.4 (1927):553-585.

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