The Atacama Desert holds the world record of surviving 173 months without rainfall, making it the driest place on the planet. But a year's worth of rainfall suddenly transformed this dreary place into an oasis filled with pink flowers.
The level of rainfall across South America increases with the El Niño levels. In March, parts of the Atacama Desert experienced 0.96 inches of rainfall in just a day brought about by viscous thunderstorm. While this rate doesn't seem much for an average region, this amount is extremely huge for a desert region. The amount of rain that poured in one day was equivalent to more than 14 years of rain.
The thunderstorms in March and August 2015 caused the normally dry Copiapo River to overflow beyond the river banks and caused a flood that killed 28 people and left thousands of people homeless.
The mallow flower, also known as malva, usually blossoms every five to seven years in sync with El Niño. But the unusually rainy conditions brought about by the warming waters seemed to benefit the mallow flowers this year. The Atacama Desert is currently experiencing the "most spectacular blossoming of the past 18 years."
"The Atacama region was punished, but also blessed by the phenomenon of a flourishing desert, something that happens only after the rains, this time brought about by El Niño and climate change," said Daniel Diaz, Atacama's National Tourism Service director. Experts speculated that the blossoming will extend until November.
Diaz added that around 20,000 tourists will visit Atacama Desert to experience the rare blooming of mallow flowers. Diaz expressed that this phenomenon is a rare opportunity for them to study how the flowers grow and document the dynamism of the desert's ecosystem.
There are only three deserts in the world that naturally bloom. The two are located in Australia and North America. The flowering of deserts is called 'desierto florido'. The Atacama Desert is home to more than 200 species wherein herbs are the plentiful. Mallows are the most dominant of all flowers that bloom in Atacama Desert whose horde gives the dessert a beautiful pink hue.
The desierto florido is often accompanied with the influx of insects, lizards and bird which partake the just blossomed food source. This natural occurring cycle is most beneficial to the region's wildlife.