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John Wheeler, Published February 27 2012

Weather Talk: Chile’s Atacama Desert is driest place on Earth

Would you prefer to live in a place where it never rains or snows?

You could live on the moon, but consider this: The driest place on Earth is the Atacama Desert in northern Chile. Along the coast of Chile, the ocean is very cold due to an outward current pulling up cold water from the deep ocean. This creates a permanent high-pressure region that deflects all storms.

Although this desert is often shrouded in fog, it almost never rains. Average precipitation is a few hundredths of an inch, or nearly nothing. There are places in this desert that have not received a drop of rain in more than 100 years.

Scientists have found loose sediments in some areas of the Atacama that date back 20 million years. These sediments would surely have been washed away by any rainfall, suggesting a total lack of rainfall. These sediments are devoid of life or organic material of any kind, much like the dust found on the surface of the moon.

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