Long-Awaited Rain Returns to Santiago

By Eric Leister, Meteorologist
May 1, 2014; 6:49 PM ET
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In what has been a very dry past 12 months for central Chile, some rain is finally returning this week.

Santiago, Chile, located in the Southern Hemisphere, is normally dry during the time from October through April, but this year has been exceptionally dry.

Santiago only received 0.3 mm (0.01 of an inch) of rain from Oct. 1 to the end of April. This compares to a normal rainfall amount of 48.7 mm (1.91 inches) for the same time.

This lack of rain has already caused some issues with crops and also led to some wildfires. Just last week, the port city of Valparaiso, just west of Santiago, had thousands of people left homeless due to a rapidly spreading fire.

A powerful storm moved onshore across southern Chile Wednesday and finally brought a shower to Santiago early Thursday morning. A second surge of moisture will bring steadier rainfall from Friday through Friday night. A shower or two will linger into Saturday.

Rainfall totals are expected to be under 12.5 mm (0.50 of an inch) in the lower elevations, but any rainfall will be welcome due to the drought that is currently in place. Even looking back over the past year, the dry conditions have dominated with only 30 percent of normal rainfall occurring.

Volcanoes in Atacama Desert, Chile, courtesy of Thinkstock.com

Starting with the rainfall this week, we could see a trend towards more rain across the region in the coming months, as an El Niño is expected to build over the waters of the Pacific Ocean. During such a pattern, wetter-than-normal weather typically prevails over much of Chile, which has been enduring a rainfall deficient for nearly five years now.

A change to wetter weather could yield big benefits for the power infrastructure of Chile which also has experienced problems with power production, as hydroelectric power supplies nine out of every 10 residents in central Chile. The lack of rain has forced many to rely on more expensive fossil fuels, according to Reuters.

According to the Chilean Weather Service, 2004-2013 was the driest 10-year period in the last 150 years. Chile is also home to the driest desert in the world, the Atacama Desert.

Meteorologist Alan Reppert contributed to this story.

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