Why are heavy rains occurring on the coast of Peru?


Published in El Comercio
Translated and adapted by Natasha Clay

Landslides and heavy rains on the coast have surprised neighbors of Lima and Ica, affecting hundreds of homes and thousands of citizens.

Between Tuesday and Wednesday of this week, more than 1,000 homes were affected by floods caused by landslides in the district of La Tinguiña, Ica. Less than a month into the new year, sectors of Peru in which there is usually no rainfall are suffering the consequences of adverse climatic conditions, such as rainfall and floods.

But, why is the such rainfall hitting the coast, mountains and jungle? Is the amount of precipitation that has been recorded usual?

In an interview with El Comercio, engineer Nelson Quispe, deputy director of meteorological forecasting for the National Service of Meteorology and Hydrology (SENAMHI, Spanish acronym), provided some clarity to the questions many of us have concerning this phenomenon.

According to the specialist, not since 1998 has there been a level of precipitations such as those recorded recently in Ica. The motive for recent weather conditions is the invasion of hot and humid air since the start of 2017, deriving from the northern hemisphere. “That air has been dispersed all along our coast,” notes Quispe.

He explained that “the temperatures are getting so low that the system pushes everything else south. The heat that is in the Caribbean is pushed out and comes into our zone.” He added that “the phenomena can come from far places.”

Peru: What areas have been affected by floods?

Because the warm Caribbean air reaches the Peruvian coast, clouds and consecutive rains are generated. Adding to this, our atmosphere has become “totally wet and saturated” due to this phenomenon, and national temperatures have reached extreme levels. Tacna, for example, has already registered temperatures as high as 36°C (96.8°F).

The specialist explained that rainfall in the highlands and jungle are due to other factors than those described above, and that their occurrence is normal. What is shocking, he said, are the situations that have registered in the middle and lower part of the coast. “This air invasion of other latitudes is a special situation,” he said.

Quispe notes that while this invasion of hot air has occurred before, this year’s experience has been of greater proportions and a longer duration; typically, the high temperatures that we have already felt in this month of January do not appear until February.

The rains on the coast are expected to continue, lasting three to four days. “Rainfall may be at lower intensities but will continue to occur,” Quispe concluded.



Natasha Clay

Natasha grew up in a suburb of Chicago and moved to Peru two years ago and studied Bilingual Administrative Assistance and General Management at the British Academy. In her spare time she loves to be with family and her maltese, Maya.