Modelling coastal stratocumulus clouds - past, present and future of potential fog water resource under climate change in the Tarapacá region, Chile

Camilo del Río, M. Sc.
first supervisor: Prof. Dr. Alexander Siegmund
second supervisor: Prof. Dr. Jörg Bendix


The high evaporation rates from the Pacific Ocean together with the existence of a quasi-permanent regional thermal inversion (between 480 and 1.550 m.a.s.l.) as a result of the Southeast Pacific Anticyclone, intensified by the Humboldt Current, determine the existence of the regional-scale stratocumulus cloud (Sc) that develops at the eastern tropical and southern subtropical Pacific Ocean. This cloud is responsable for the advective fog that reaches the coast of the Atacama Desert.

The climate change phenomenon leads to several questions about coastal advective fog (locally known as “camanchaca”) behavior and its potential as a water resource, e.g. if ocean water temperature is getting higher should camanchaca increase its cover and its water content?; or if climate change is affecting the marine currents and upwelling will the cover and water content of camanchaca decrease?.  Moreover, this temperature variability might cause the thermic inversion layer going up or down in height, so the cloud could reach new territories, changing its spatial distribution with consequences in the related ecosystem and the places to collect fog water.

The northern part of Chile, as a part of the Atacama Desert, covers some of the most extreme arid regions and ecosystems (Weischet et al. 1985; Ewing et al. 2006). The water resources in an arid region are by itself a matter of extreme relevance. Today, due to climate change and an increasing of human demand for human consumption and productive activities, such as metallic and not metallic mining, water resources are becoming even more important. The overall goal is to determine and characterize the past, present and future spatio-temporal behavior of the coastal stratocumulus clouds and the potential water amount availability under climate change conditions, 1980 – to present in the Atacama Desert, northern Chile.


Stratocumulus cloud over the Pacific ocean reaching the Atacama coast

Project start: 2014

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