It Rained in the Driest Desert on Earth, and Something Very Strange Happened

This is the Atacama Desert in Chile. It covers more than 65,000 miles (105,000 square kilomters) and is known as the driest non-polar desert on Earth.

But when it rains here… magic happens.

Underneath the dessert sand are “hybernating” seeds just waiting for the wet nourishment to “awaken” them. Normally the area typically sees just 0.6 inches (15 millimeters) a year in rainfall; some places in the region receive even less — between 0.04 and 0.12 inches (1 and 3 mm) of rain a year. However, this year the same weather patterns that spawned Hurricane Patricia and caused incredible death and damage, brought live-giving rains to the region. Now, more than 200 native species of plants have sprung up, delivering rare scents and colors.

“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,” Daniel Diaz, National Tourism Service director in Atacama, told EFE.

According to AccuWeather, blooms like this occur every five to 10 years due to the lack of rainfall, which makes this year’s event even rarer.

“The intensity of blooms this year has no precedent,” Diaz said. “And the fact that it has happened twice in a same year has never been recorded in the country’s history. We are surprised.”

Bored Panda, where we originally found the story, notes that more than 20,000 tourists are expected to visit the desert to see the extraordinary bloom. However, if you’re hoping to see this rare event in person, you better act fast; the flowers typically begin to die off in early November.

No time to make it to the driest desert on earth this year? No worries. These kinds of classic deserts bloom can be found in Australia and Chile, as well as The Badlands region of the United States.