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

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

Received: January 11, 2017
Revised: July 25, 2017
Accepted: July 28, 2017
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Cite this article:
del Río, C., Garcia, J.L., Osses, P., Zanetta, N., Lambert, F., Rivera, D., Siegmund, A., Wolf, N., Cereceda, P., Larraín, H. and Lobos, F. (2018). ENSO Influence on Coastal Fog-Water Yield in the Atacama Desert, Chile. Aerosol Air Qual. Res. 18: 127-144.


  • 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.

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


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