Peruvian geography and weather

Yes, we have all heard Peru is a nice place... Machu Picchu, llamas, the Incas, the Amazon river... but writing about Peru, its geography and weather, is —believe me— not easy. Books told me that Peru has eight natural regions, 23 out of the 29 micro-weathers available in the world, a large variety of animal and plant species and natural phenomena like the one caused by the current of Niño. Further, its ocean has cold waters most of the time and this brings an unusual richness to their fishing industry. Believe it or not, there is a lot to write about and only a web page to fulfil it. Here it goes.

The ocean and the coast

Though Peru has got up to eight identified natural regions, to avoid complications, I will group some of them to limit this description to the main three: the coast, the Andes and the Rainforest. Peruvian coast, for instance, is a narrow line of desert that spreads from south to north, from the Pacific ocean to the Andes mountains. Ironically, the coast has supported the main cities and economic activities of the country for decades. How did it survived with so little water? The next paragraph will talk about that.

The coast in Peru has fifty-two small interruptions, fifty-two valleys born from fifty-two rivers that escaped from the Andes cordillera and came to see the sea. The truth is that the Andes mountains prevent clouds from the Amazon rainforest to reach the coast and bring some more rain. Nevertheless, the lands that are watered by the rivers are very fertile, something surprising for a place which is a desert almost all of the way.

But that's not all about Peruvian coast, indeed. The two sea currents that influence the Pacific Ocean in front of Peru have a very strong influence in the country. The current of Humboldt, from the south, cools the sea and allows the growth of a number of fish that makes the country very important in the fishing industry. The current of Niño come from the Equator, warms the waters and allows the presence of other kinds of fish in the northern coast. As a result, Peruvian waters are excellent for the growth of plankton, a kind of algae that provides tasty food to all the fish in the place. There is only one drawback: Some years, the current of Niño comes stronger and warms the ocean's waters more than it should. This causes a series of heavy rains and other atmospheric disorders which are usually called the Phenomenon of Niño. Peru and Ecuador are usually its main victim.

In fact, I wonder where could Peru now be if it hadn't spent so much money and efforts Niño after Niño rebuilding, as a minimum, the northern zone of the country, including housing, roads and, of course, bridges.

Well, the good news is that the combination of currents also protects Peru from typhoons, tornadoes and hurricanes. Think about it, and you will not be able to remember any news saying the contrary.

The Andes in Peru

The central part of Peru, from south to north, is covered by the Andes mountains. They are not one single chain of mountains. They subdivide in a first set of three chains of mountains that gather at a place called Nudo de Vilcanota, in a second set of three chains of mountains that gather again at the Nudo de Pasco and a third set of two chains of mountains that start from there and reach continue in Colombia and Ecuador.

As you may figure, the fact that there are three sets of mountains together with the fact each of these mountains have different peaks, air pressures and soil conditions is what explains why Peru has got eighty percent of the micro-weathers of the world and, consequently, a number of species living in their altitudes. Peruvian highest peak is Nevado Huascaran, at 6768 m.a.s.l.; but the Andes have many other beautiful lagoons, lakes, canyons, valleys and the like. To cultivate these lands, since Inca times, Peruvians have worked the sides of the mountains and built cultivable terraces called andenes to grow their crops. And the fact that Peru is the cradle of potatoes demonstrates that this region is not merely made of mountains.

About the weather in the Andes, it varies a lot according to the altitude and latitude, but there is a pattern that repeats year after year and might be the only one I can point out. During the months of spring and summer (November to March) the evaporation of waters in the Amazon rainforest brings plenty rain to this zone of the nation. During the rest of the year, we talk about hot sunny days, cold nights and brusque changes of temperature between them. There is not much rain these months, so it is a good season to go and visit.

The Amazon rainforest

The east of Peru is basically the basin of the Amazon river. It is a huge rainforest with high percentages of humidity and hot weather. It starts with the eastern side of the Andes mountains, around the 1500 m.a.s.l. and supports an average temperature of 35 °C, except for certain cold waves that occasionally come from the Bolivian Andes and cause some problems in its southern zone.

Interesting, huh?

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