In Coastal Peru, Fog Begets Life

January 31st, 2017 by Kathryn Hansen


It might seem unlikely that vegetation can survive in a sandy coastal environment that receives little rain, but plant communities along Peru’s southern coast have found a way.

In December 2016, we published the top image showing a unique perspective of fog. From space, you can see the vast expanse of marine stratocumulus sweeping inland to fill some of Peru’s deep valleys. It is the visible outcome of unseen atmospheric circulation and ocean currents.

From the ground, visibility would be limited (assuming the cloud layer is reaching all the way down to the ground). Depending on your location, experiencing fog might not be too unusual. In coastal Chile and Peru, it’s most common to get fog like this during the austral winter (June through August) and early spring. Plant communities called “lomas” depend on it for their survival.  Instead of relying on rainfall, the plants get much of their water by combing droplets out of the air as dense fog passes by.

Ralf Hesse, a scientist at the State Office for Cultural Heritage in Germany, has used remote sensing to study Peru’s lomas. He provided the second image above, which shows the view from a study site located about 80 kilometers (50 miles) northwest from the top-left corner of the satellite image. The loma pictured is composed of the species Tillandsia. But depending on the location, lomas can contain anything from grasses and shrubs to small trees.


One Response to “In Coastal Peru, Fog Begets Life”

  1. Pierre Gareau says:

    The fog can make possible even fair sized forest. Real forest whit an ecosystem.
    Look at in chile.
    The phenomenon je known as camanchaga is the sole source off Waterloo un ruisseau ecosystem.

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