Chile’s Climate Problem: Deserts Are Flooding, Wetlands Are Burning

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Climate change is indeed happening. The world’s driest desert is flooding, and some of the planet’s wettest woodlands are on fire.

For the first time in centuries, rains from the Andes mountains have led to torrential water pouring into the Atacama desert, the world’s driest desert, sweeping houses and structures built on it.

At the same time, the south has seen its wetlands blazing in forest fire after unprecedented temperatures leading the government to declare some regions in states of calamity.

Atacama desert, known as the world’s driest desert was flooded. Image from Creative Commons

President Sebastian Piñera declared a “zone of emergency” in northern Chile on Friday after heavy rains flooded El Loa province right below the Andes mountains.

According to the National Emergency Office, the flood has killed six people and has destroyed nearly 100 homes. They also have raised alert warnings for heavy rain in Arica, Parinacota, and Tarapaca.

Chile’s capital, Santiago, has been battling record-breaking heat and has not received its average annual rainfall in the past decade.

“Chile needs to be thinking about how to adapt to climate change, as it has such an isolated climate that makes it more vulnerable to droughts,” said Park Williams, a hydroclimatologist at Columbia University in New York.

“For the last several decades, temperatures have risen, and precipitation has declined in central Chile, making it more susceptible to wildfires.”

In the south, around 600 forest fires have been recorded through the entire stretch of its 9,500 ha of land.

After visiting the fire damage in the South, President Pinera traveled to the north to see the flooded Strong to moderate thunderstorms are expected to continue through Sunday, according to Chile’s weather service Meteochile. /apr

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