15-Dec-2009 -- Underway from Callao, the port of Lima and down SE along the coast of Peru to Matarani, where I am going to load copper concentrates, today I had the opportunity to visit 16S 75W.
Although not much can be seen, neither to North nor to NE, today is a very clear day compared with the usual visibility conditions along the coast of Peru.
The cold Humboldt current, coming up from Chile and flowing along this coast, meets the warm air over the land. This causes an extremely stable atmosphere, permanently misty, often even foggy, but without any precipitation. Rain is an almost unknown thing to the Peruvians living along the coast. Real clear days may be encountered only a two to three times a year.
The lack of rainfall does not allow vegetation and causes the development of brownish-gray so called “coastal deserts”. A similar phenomenon may be seen along the coast of Namibia, where the cold waters of the Agulhas current are responsible for.
Fish is abundant in the Humboldt current. Maritime traffic is not really dense, but from time to time you see a ship. Here the Dutch container ship CCNI BALTIC.
As this is my first visit in Peru, let us have a look to the history of this country:
The Inca empire centred on Cuzco was conquered in the early 16th century by Francisco Pizarro, thus ending 500 years of Inca rule. After 1810, Peru became the centre of Spanish government until the revolutionary war of 1821-1824. Independence from Spain was declared, but there were frequent border disputes with neighbors in the 19th and 20th centuries, including the Pacific War (1879-1883), in which three southern coastal provinces were lost to Chile.
We are as well here in the “El Niño” area, and everybody has already heard about, but not much people really do know what it is:
I will try to explain:
In 1982 a scientist named Camilo Carillo reported that Peruvian fishermen had coined the term “Corriente del Niño” (Current of the Christ Child), in reference to an invasion of warm waters that occurs around Christmas and causes a sharp increase of fish catches for a brief period of time, after which there is again a sharp decline in fish stocks.
Towards the end of the year warm water reaches the coast of Ecuador and moves as a S-going current towards the Gulf of Guayaquil, just at the place where the Peru (Humboldt) current turns into the South Equatorial current. In some years, for reasons not fully explained, yet, it penetrates as far South as 16°S, completely displacing the Peru current for a time.
The origin of the current in normal years is thought to be outflow of the Gulf of Panama, largely derived from the Equatorial Counter-current, which follows East across the North Pacific Ocean at low latitudes. A clockwise eddy is set up at about 6°N 85°W, and water is pushed South between it and a small anticlockwise eddy off Bahia Buenaventura in Colombia.
Normally, El Niño is a current of predominantly South directions with occasional North sets, which varies in strength and constancy in different years. In the period 1961 to 1985, however, major events occurred, the last (1982-1983) being the most intense.
Investigation by the US Research ships “Conrad” and “Researcher” in October 1982 found that much of the warm water reaching the region was coming directly from the West, thus the South Equatorial current W of 85°W having been displaced by a South-extension of the Equatorial Counter-current as least as far as 5°S.
Thus it may be that, in years such as this, two warm incursions take place: the first from the West, caused by a stronger, broader Equatorial Counter-current, possibly the result of changes in the atmospheric circulation which cause the NE Trade Wind to blow across the equator into the southern hemisphere, - the second by the more usual Gulf of Panama outflow.
At the end of September sea surface temperature rose 4°C in 24 hours off Paita and could be measured as far as down to Iquique in Chile!
Catastrophic flooding occurred in Ecuador and Peru from October 1982 to June 1983 and oceanographic effects were very great. Wholesale destruction of organisms indigenous to the cool water took place with consequent massive depletion of fish stock.