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ENSO Influence on Coastal Fog-Water Yield in the Atacama Desert, Chile

Category: Observation of fog by using both advanced remote sensing techniques and in-situ approaches

Volume: 18 | Issue: 1 | Pages: 127-144
DOI: 10.4209/aaqr.2017.01.0022

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Camilo del Río 1,2, Juan-Luis Garcia1,2, Pablo Osses1,2, Nicolás Zanetta1,2, Fabrice Lambert1, Daniela Rivera1, Alexander Siegmund3,4, Nils Wolf4, Pilar Cereceda1,2, Horacio Larraín2, Felipe Lobos2

  • 1 Instituto de Geografía, Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  • 2 Centro UC Desierto de Atacama, Santiago, Chile
  • 3 Heidelberg Center for the Environment & Institute for Geography, Heidelberg University, 69120 Heidelberg, Germany
  • 4 Research Group for Earth Observation (rgeo), Department of Geography, Heidelberg University of Education, 69115 Heidelberg, Germany


We explore the relation of ENSO and fog-water yields in coastal Atacama Desert.
We contrast 17 years of fog-water data with atmospheric and oceanographic variables.
Ocean and atmospheric interrelated functioning are expose at different time and scales.
ENSO influence on fog and explain 79% of the summer fog water variability.
Use of fog as a water resource is sustainable under possible future climate scenarios.


Fog water represents an alternative, abundant and currently unexploited fresh water resource in the coastal Atacama Desert (~20°S). Here, the stratocumulus clouds meet the Coastal Cordillera, producing highly dynamic advective marine fog, a major feature of the local climate that provides water to a hyper-arid environment. One of the main issues that arises in harvesting fog water is our limited understanding of the spatial and inter-annual variability of fog clouds and their associated water content. Here we assess the role of regional-wide El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) forcing on local inter-annual fog-water yields along the coast of Atacama. We contrast 17 years of continuous fog-water data, with local and regional atmospheric and oceanographic variables to determine the link between them and the inter-annual dynamics of fog in northern Chile. Sea surface temperature (SST) in ENSO zone 1 + 2 shows significant correlations with offshore and coastal Atacama SST, as well as with local low cloud cover and fog water yields, which go beyond the annual cycle beat, exposing a potential causal link and influence of ENSO on fog along the Atacama. On the inter-annual time scale, we found that when ENSO 3 + 4 zone SST, specifically during summer, overcome a > 1°C temperature threshold, they incite significantly higher summer fog water yields and explain 79% of the fog variability. Furthermore, satellite images displaying regional extent Sc cloud and fog presence during ENSO extremes reveal higher cloud abundance during El Niño at this latitude. However, 75% of the yearly fog water is collected during winter, and does not appear to be affected in a significant manner by Pacific oscillations. Thus, our results suggest that the utilization of fog as a fresh water resource may be sustainable in the future, regardless of ENSO-induced variability in the region.


Southeast Pacific (SEP) Stratocumulus cloud Fog-water El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) Estación Atacama UC Oasis de Niebla Alto Patache

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