Atacama Desert Blooms Pink After Historic Rainfall (Photos)

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Atacama Desert Blooms Pink After Historic Rainfall (Photos)

The Atacama Desert, one of the driest places on Earth, is experiencing a riot of color as a rare springtime bloom of flowers covers every hillside.

The explosion of color is the result of rains that swept through the region earlier this year, watering seeds that had lain dormant in the ground for years.

The Atacama Desert typically gets just 0.6 inches (15 millimeters) a year in rainfall, though some places in the region, such as Arica, receive even less, experiencing between 0.04 and 0.12 inches (1 and 3 mm) of rain a year.

Most of the time, the desert is an otherworldly, forbidding landscape of steep, rocky hillsides, salt lakes and old lava flows. However, this year, the heaviest rains in two decades hit the region, causing mudslides and overflowing rivers that killed 28 people. In one day in March alone,  the town of Antofagasta, Chile was battered with 0.9 inches (23 mm) of rain, the equivalent of seven years of precipitation, turning the entire town into a river of mud, according to The Weather Channel.

Those rare winter rains also watered the parched landscape, nourishing flower seeds that had been buried in the ground for years. The result? A dazzling carpet of pinks, oranges, yellows and purples as far as the eye can see.

blooms atacama desert

Earlier in the year, the Atacama Desert received heavy rains, with the town of Antofagasta, Chile receiving seven years’ worth of rain in a 12-hour span. Those heavy rains turned the parched desert into rivers of mud. But the same rainfall watered seeds that had been buried in the ground for years, waiting for their chance to bloom. Here, photos of the blooms painting the landscape. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

The explosion of color has also been a bonanza for the other hardy species that live in the arid landscape. Rodents, lizards, birds and various insects have all been drawn to feast on the 200 plant species that appeared, according to the International Business Times.

 

fuschia blooms in the Atacama desert

An explosion of color as desert blooms cover the hillsides in the Atacama desert.
Credit: Twitter user Tomás Cuadra Ordenes, or toroco_vallenar

“It occurred in a very particular way because we have not had such a large flowering in the past 18 years. In 2010, we had a long flowering but already this year, 2015, has surpassed all the previous ones,” Rodrigo Ruiz, acting regional director of Chile’s National Tourism Service, Sernatur, told the International Business Times.

 

Rare species

 

atacama desert red flowers

 About 200 plant species popped up thanks to the rain. Some, like the Garra de León, are found nowhere else in the world. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Blue and white

atacama desert blooms

 Here, gorgeous blue and white flowers dot the landscape of the Atacama Desert. These flowers pop up overnight. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Desert blooms

cargo train traverses pink landscape

The Atacama Desert is one of the driest places on Earth, and such blooms typically only happen every five to 10 years, but this bloom is one of the most impressive in decades, experts say. Getting to experience the blooms, like the train conductor traveling across this field of fuschia, is a once in a lifetime experience. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Lifetime trip

atacama blooms and a train

 This cargo train has quite the view as it travels through endless fields of magenta flowers. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Standing watch

atacama desert blooms

This giant white cockatoo stands watch over his field of pink lilies. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Fleeting beauty

atacama desert blooms

Though flowers seem to cover every surface now, they will soon wither away and the landscape will once again be transformed to its drab palette of rust browns and greys. By the end of November, all trace of the colorful blooms will be gone. (Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Desert palette

fuschia blooms in the Atacama desert

The desert sunset enhances the view of the flowers, painting the sky and mountains behind in a palette of yellow and red. ((Photo credit: Tomás Cuadra Ordenes)

Follow Tia Ghose on Twitter and Google+. Follow Live Science@livescience,Facebook & Google+

 

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