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(in Indian—desert area), a desert in northern Chile, on the western slopes of the Andes. It is about 1,000 km long and includes the coastal cordillera—with elevations of up to 3,200 m—the longitudinal valley, and the western slopes of the Cordillera de Domeyko—with elevations to 4,325 m. Atacama belongs to the category of so-called coastal deserts, which form under the influence of the outlying eastern area of subtropical anticyclones. Its climate is a tropical trade-wind climate and is relatively cool because of the effects of the cold Peruvian current. On the coast the average January temperature is about 20°C, and the average July temperature is about 13° C. Precipitation, which does not occur every year, averages less than 50 mm per year. The spring and winter relative humidity on the coast reaches 82 percent; cloudiness reaches 85 percent. At elevations of up to 600 m, fog (camanchaca) and light drizzle (garua) are typical. Occasional water currents from the Andes dry up or are channeled off for irrigation; only the Loa River reaches the ocean.

The surface of the Atacama is primarily covered with moving sands, detritus, and saline soils. The coastal strip becomes covered with loma-type temporary vegetation during periods of fog. On coastal cliffs and islets there are seashore bird colonies and deposits of guano. On the eastern foot of the coastal cordillera there are unique deposits of sodium and potassium nitrates, borax, iodine, and common salt. The largest deposits of copper in the capitalist world— Chuquicamata, El Salvador, and others—are located on the western slopes of the Andes.


References in periodicals archive ?
The combination of high mountaintops and the driest desert air on the planet makes a trip to the Atacama Desert the top choice for skywatchers," says Bob McDonald.
The national tourism office says the road to San Pedro de Atacama was temporarily blocked due to the unusual weather.
According to a Chilean local newspaper, a treasure hunter Oscar Munoz found the remains on October 19, 2003 when he was looking for objects of historical value in La Noria, an abandoned town in the Atacama Desert.
ALMA, short for Atacama Large Millimetre Array, has been running at limited capacity since 2011, but now 50 of the antennas will finally work together.
Sill, the same conditions that make the Atacama, Earth's driest desert, (Antartica is drier) so inhospitable make it beguiling for astronomy.
Thanks to the geographical eccentricity of the Atacama, the astronomers' work continued.
Significant cost reduction of up to 30%, a simple process with 3 steps with continuous production and a high input/output ratio are hallmarks of Atacama Labs' innovative production method.
Just for the fun of it jjGoogling a runner Atacama Crossing 2.
Last June, the space agency took seven middle school teachers to the barren Atacama Desert in Chile to immerse them in scientific exploration.
Del Sol built his first hotel here and then headed to Chile's northern extremity to repeat the feat in the Atacama desert (AR February 1999).