July 23, 2014

If You Think It’s Dry Here, Try Chile

Q: This has been a very dry summer.  What’s the driest place on Earth?

A: That would have to be in the country of Chile, says Brent McRoberts of Texas A&M University. “A small town called Arica in Chile has gone as long as 14 years without any measurable rain,” McRoberts reports. “There was a 59-year period there when it averaged only three-tenths of an inch of rain. No place in the United States comes close to being that dry.”

a well in the desert

There is dry, and very dry, and then there is Chile. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Q: What is the driest place in the U.S.?

A: Naturally, it’s out west, McRoberts says. “Death Valley in California is considered the driest location in the U.S,” he adds. “The combination of desert and being below sea level makes it a very dry area, receiving less than two inches of rain each year. Nevada is the driest state, averaging 7.5 inches of rain each year. That’s still no comparison to Arica, Chile. It would take a full century – at least 100 years – of their annual rainfall to fill a coffee cup full of water.”

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Weather Whys is a service of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at Texas A&M University

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