The Humboldt current

Coast of Chile with Humboldt currents

The climate of South America is extremely diverse due to geographic, atmospheric and oceanic factors. In the specific case of Chile and Peru, the oceanic factor is essential due to the so-called Humboldt current.

But What is its origin and what effects does it have on the climate? We will talk about all this and much more in this special.

What is Humboldt's stream?

Pacific ocean temperatures

This current, also known as the Peruvian current, It is a marine current caused by the rise of deep waters and, therefore, very cold, that occurs on the western coasts of South America. It was described by the German naturalist Alexander von Humboldt in his work "Journey to the equinoctial regions of the New Continents" published in 1807.

It is the most important cold water stream in the world, and also one of those that has more notable effects on the climate, in this case, of the coasts of Chile and Peru due to the combined effects of the movement of the earth's rotation and the centrifugal force of oceanic waters in the equatorial zone.

Upon emerging from the depths of the coast, its waters have a very low temperature, about 4ºC, and flow in a north direction along the western coast of South America, parallel to the coastline until reaching the latitude of the equator. . For this reason, the temperature of these waters is between 5 and 10ºC lower than it should be, taking into account its location and proximity to the equator.

Atacama Desert

Cold waters are very nutritious: specifically, contain high levels of nitrates and phosphates from the seabed, on which phytoplankton can feed, which, in turn, can reproduce rapidly and become part of the diet of zooplankton, on which larger animals and also humans will feed.

If we talk about the climate, even though it is arid and desert, thanks to the Humboldt current some very hardy plants, such as cacti in the Sonoran desert, can live due to abundant mists and fogs that are condensed on the shores.

However, sometimes the current does not emerge, and north winds carry warm waters south. When this happens, a warm current, known by the name of El Niño, replaces it causing a rise in temperatures of about 10ºC, which supposes a diminution of the flora and the marine fauna, and a threat for the survival of those terrestrial animals that feed on it, such as birds.

Effects on climate

Peru beach

As we have said, the climate of the coasts of South America is generally arid, desert. Due to the latitude, it should be tropical and subtropical, but because its waters are between 5 and 10ºC lower than they should be, the atmosphere cools.

Thus, in what should be a place of lush rain forests and with pleasant temperatures, in the areas that are in contact with this current we find relatively cold coastal deserts, like the Atacama, whose temperatures range from -25ºC to 50ºC, and which is also the driest on Earth. Despite being close to the equator, the rains are very scarce and only a few plants and animals can survive.

Some examples are:

  • Plants: Ricinus communis, Shizopetalon tenuifolium, Senecio myriophyllus, Copiapoa
  • Animals: sea lions, foxes, long-tailed snake, caterpillars, praying mantis, scorpion

Does climate change influence the Humboldt current?

Terrestrial temperature

Unfortunately yes. Cold and alkaline waters have a high level of oxygen, thanks to which many animals can live in them, but water that is nearly deoxygenated has a tendency to spread as temperatures rise, so that some have had to go elsewhere; However, others, such as the Peruvian anchovy, have been favored and have been able to reproduce in such a way that today they are abundant in the fishing boats.

Peruvian and Chilean waters they are acidifying due to global warming. And as a consequence of this process, even the climate of the coasts of South America could one day change, putting the ecosystem at risk.

In addition, the El Niño phenomenon has intensified and there are experts who say that, as the planet warms, the chaos it will cause will be greater, since it not only affects the climate causing significant droughts and floods, but also to the crops. As a consequence, the price of food will become more expensive as it will be more difficult to produce.

So far, the worst El Niño was in 1997, but that of 2016 is almost identical. With warmer waters, meteorological phenomena such as hurricanes or tornadoes will become more intense.

Did you know the Humboldt current?


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  1.   lore said

    thanks for the help ESTEBAN

  2.   maylly said

    Thank you very much for helping me with my homework and my teacher gave me 20

  3.   joan said

    helped me a lot

  4.   frameworks said

    what I want is your flora and fauna from the humbolt stream

    1.    jenni said

      I want to know what its function is

      1.    Monica sanchez said

        Hi Jenni.
        Marine currents distribute heat throughout the planet, and in the case of Humboldt's, this is a cold water current that directly influences the climate on the coasts of Peru and Chile, causing them to register temperatures lower than what it would touch due to its situation with respect to the equator.

        In addition, thanks to the Humboldt current, many marine animals can live there along the coasts of Peru and Chile, since it brings many nutrients. In fact, it provides more than 10% of the world's fish catch.
        A greeting.

        1.    florence gonzales said

          Thank you very much Monica sanchez for helping us with the homework

          1.    newademus said

            Hello Miss Florence, I would like to know where in Peru the Humboldt current passes. I wait for my answer Please help me
            Thank you


  5.   esther crow diaz said

    thanks for the help ... very interesting

  6.   Andrea Araceli Salas Ayala said

    what is the location of the humboldt current

  7.   Jeff said

    Thanks for the info, and keep those offensive comments ...

  8.   Carlos Alonso said

    I want to know where the humboldt current is

  9.   Aryan said

    what is the location of the humboldt current

  10.   Gianella said

    I want to know how nothing develops moresssssssssssssssssssssssssss

  11.   cristhian said

    good task

  12.   Tony manrique said

    very good thank you all

  13.   Victor Guzman and Jossy C said

    Thank you

    1.    Monica sanchez said

      To you 🙂

  14.   Karen Paucar said

    I want to do in case of floods 🙂

    1.    Monica sanchez said

      Hello Karen.
      In the event of a flood, stay calm and stay away from poles, trees or anything like that, as they could fall. It is also recommended not to use the car, or walk through flooded areas.
      You must always follow the instructions of Civil Protection, police and others. If the flood is significant, you have to get as far away as possible until the situation calms down.
      A greeting. 🙂

  15.   Alexandra Angel said

    Miss, it could show the rest of the eastern coasts of America and Eurasia Africa. related to those updrafts,. please thanks..

  16.   camel said

    which places are the most affected

    1.    Monica sanchez said

      Hello Camila.
      The most affected place is the entire west coast of South America, the Andes Mountains. The affected countries are Peru, Bolivia, Chile.
      A greeting.

  17.   sergio said

    Good afternoon, I am doing a work on marine currents in Peru and their influence on the CLIMATE, I would like bibliographic or virtual references. I have searched in the SM library, the agrarian one but I cannot find it, where could I find that information? Thanks in advance.

  18.   sandy said

    what is the location
    n of the humboldt stream

    1.    Monica sanchez said

      Hi Sandy.
      In the Pacific Ocean, near Chile and Peru.
      A greeting.

  19.   newademus said

    Why does the Humboldt current pass in Peru Ms. Florencia

  20.   stefany said

    Hello, I would like to know what clouds are formed by the presence of the Peruvian sea.

  21.   Felix said

    Good, this information about the current of Peru helped me a lot, and it is true now disasters are being experienced in Peru with this El Niño climate change, more than all torrential rains (which in turn cause huaycos) increase in temperature.

  22.   citlally said

    How has ocean currents like this one favored human life? He hoped menayuden is my boy's job. Thank you