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The Humboldt Current and why Chilean beaches are the coldest

SANTIAGO – Chilean news website Publimetro figured out last week that Chile has the coldest beaches of South America. Overall, the ocean temperature in Chile is 15 ̊C colder than in Caribbean countries. But why?

According to an article in Chilean daily Publimetro, the ocean temperature in Chile is on average 16 ̊ C, which is cold compared to other countries in South America. For tourists and Chileans, a dive in the Pacific Ocean is more than just refreshing: it can be shivering cold. But how is it that during summer time, when in regions from Arica in the north to Los Lagos in the south temperatures constantly rise above 30 ̊C, the temperatures of the ocean water remain so incredibly cold? The answer can be found in a unique natural phenomenon: the Humboldt Current.

Photo: Alcetron

The Humboldt Current is a cold water stream that runs in two directions toward the Chilean coast. The flow is named after the German scientist Alexander von Humboldt, who wrote about the influence of the stream on Chilean biodiversity. Not only does the Humboldt Current flow cold water to the Chilean coast, it carries nutrients consumed by all kinds of species.

The Humboldt Current, running from the Pacific Ocean, bisects in both northern and southern direction when meeting the Chilean coast at the altitude of Puerto Montt. The northern stream runs as far as Peru, flowing alongside the entire Chilean coast, resulting in a constant flow of cold water on the Chilean beaches. But as mentioned, it is more than just cold water.

The Humboldt Current exists of a constant stream of cold, upwelling water from the Pacific Ocean, brought to the surface by southeast trade winds and the rotating Earth. The upwelling water brings up nutrients from deeper parts of the Pacific Ocean, which has brought together a huge variety of mammals, seabirds and fish along the Chilean coast. So remember, when complaining about icy water on the Chilean coast, that without Mr. Humboldt and his Current, Chile wouldn´t have been such a biodiverse country.

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