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Chilean Desert blooms in rare winter surprise




The sand dunes of Chile's Atacama desert, the driest on the planet, have been blanketed by white and purple blooms in recent days after early rains caused flowers to spring up in the dead of the Southern Hemisphere winter.

The Atacama has been dubbed the "flowering desert," with resistant seeds and bulbs enduring the harsh weather to pop up as flowers every few years in the spring.

But recent heavy rains, attributed to the weather phenomenon known as El Nino, have caused them to bloom early.

Read: El Niño-induced weather to grip country in April

There have not yet been enough winter blooms to officially be considered an occurrence of the "flowering desert," according to Cesar Pizarro, who heads biodiversity conservation for the National Forestry Corporation (CONAF), an organization run by the Chilean government.

But more rains are expected over the next few weeks, which could cause flowers to bloom across a wider area, Pizarro said. "In the meantime, we have to wait," he said.

Early blooming of the Atacama last occurred in 2015.

"The opportunity to step foot in this place, and to be able to enjoy the beauty of it, is wonderful," said visitor Fernanda Ponce. "It's a privilege."