Atacama snow

Emergency services were forced to rescue stranded motorists following heavy snowfall
One of the driest spots on earth has experienced its heaviest snowfall in almost two decades, according to the Chilean Directorate of Meteorology (DMC).

A cold front brought up to 80 centimetres (31.5 inches) of snow to the Atacama desert region of South America forcing emergency services to close local roads and rescue dozens of motorists from their vehicles. The temperature in the Chilean capital, Santiago, dropped below minus 8c on Wednesday. Neighbouring Argentina and Uruguay are also experiencing subzero temperatures.

Located in the north of Chile, the Atacama Desert records less than 50mm of rain on average each year. Some weather stations in the region record only 1-3mm of rain each year. The desert is, according to NASA, National Geographic and many other publications, the driest desert in the world, due to the rain shadow on the leeward side of the Chilean Coast Range, as well as a coastal inversion layer created by the cold offshore Humboldt Current.

According to the website explore-atacama.com, the current wintry conditions are unusual in the region: "In winter (June, July and August) the average daytime temperature is 22°C (72°F) and by night 4°C (39°F), descending to -2°C (28°F) in extreme cases. During summer (January, February and March) the temperature fluctuates between 27°C (81°F) and a minimum of 16°C (61°F) at night, reaching maximums of 32°C (90°F)".

Atacama volcanoes

White-peaked volcanos rise from the plains of the Atacama Desert under deep blue skies. The Atacama is the driest desert in the world.