Chile is a remarkably-shaped country, extending 2,600 miles between 22 and 55 degrees South, but having an average breadth of between 100 and 200 miles.The east of the country is very mountainous, with peaks up to 16,000 feet. South of Santiago the mountains are lower and more broken, but the whole country is rugged with hundreds of small offshore islands.
Much of Chile therefore has a mountain climate with perpetual snow and glaciers. Precipitation is light in the northern mountains, and so the snowline is high. Away from the mountains, the north is a desert. Most of the population lives in the lowlands of central Chile, whilst the southern part of the country is rugged and densely forested with a cool wet changeable climate.
Northern Chile is one of the world's driest regions. Here, despite being almost rainless, the weather is often cloudy and cool. Annual average rainfall totals can be as low as 14 mm. Average daily maximum temperatures range from 17 °C (63 °F) in July to 28 °C (82 °F) in March. Central Chile has a Mediterranean climate with warm and virtually rainless summers, whilst the winters are mild and moderately wet. Frost and snow occasionally occur inland, but are rare on the coast.
At Santiago, daily average sunshine hours range from 3 in June and July to 11 in January and the daily average maximum temperatures range from 14 °C (58 °F) in June to 29 °C (85 °F) in January.
Southern Chile tends to be wet all year round, featuring frequent disturbed, changeable weather. Annual precipitation can be as high as 5,000 mm (200") much of which falls as snow farther south and on the higher mountains. On the coast, winters are rarely very cold, but summers are cool and cloudy.
Last updated: 17 December 2013