When most imagine places that are dry, deserts come to mind, desolate areas with tumbleweeds blowing by and the only company being cactuses. Perhaps you would be joined by fictional character Spike, Snoopy’s brother who lives near Needles, Calif., right in the Mojave Desert and a place that averages just 5 inches of rain a year. Nearby Las Vegas, just 115 miles to the north, experiences even less: 4 inches a year.
However, those places are humid, sticky locales when compared to the Chilean city of Arica, which is on the Pacific Ocean just 7 miles south of the Chile-Peru border. This is the “driest place on earth.”
Incredibly, this commune of 200,000 receives, on average, 0.07 inches of rain a year. That means that 48 times as much rain falls in Yuma. In other words, it would take someone living in Arica about 48 years in order to experience how much rain falls in the driest place in the United States in one.
At its driest, Arica went more than 14 consecutive years – 170 complete months, to be exact – without a drop of rain. That occurred from Oct. 10, 1903 to Jan. 1, 1918.
This city is part of the Atacama Desert, which is home to some weather stations that have never received a drop of rain. This part of the world has been this arid for at least 3 million years. In this region and near Arica are mountain peaks that exceed 20,000 feet in elevation but have no glaciers.
The reason for this place’s dryness is due to the trade winds coming from the east and them hitting not one by two mountain ranges, the Andes and the Chilean Coast Range, which cause Arica and the rest of the Atacama Desert to be twice protected from clouds and rain.