Santiago at Dawn

Santiago Chile at Dawn
Santiago at Dawn
You can actually see the Andes in the (not very great) distance

I took the photo above this morning at dawn (Sunday, 7am). I wanted to show you that you can see the Andes before the daily smog cover accumulates. Compare this to the photo I showed you in yesterday’s post, which was taken at around 8:30am on Saturday morning.

Here’s another beauty shot from this morning, marred by that construction crane:

Santiago Chile at Dawn
More mountains, in fact, mountains all around.

Santiago, with it’s balmy Mediterranean weather and urban sprawl, gets compared to Los Angeles a lot. It’s a fair comparison. Los Angeles is at 34°03′N and Santiago is 33°27′S on the western edge of their continent, where a cold current runs just off shore in the Pacific. Both are also economic powerhouses for major agricultural regions. And both have a long history of poor air quality.

Unfortunately for Santiago, its topography isn’t as forgiving as Los Angeles’s. LA is surrounded on three sides by mountains, and the fourth by the Pacific Ocean. In the winter a stiffish offshore breeze blows any smog away from the city.

Meanwhile, Santiago is at 1700′ in altitude and surrounded on all four sides by mountains, including the terrifically tall Andes. Effectively, the city sits in a bowl, and in the winter months, June and July especially, temperature inversions keep the smog pinned in place, with no sea breeze to blow it away. Yes, that’s right, as bad as the smog is in summer here, it’s much worse in the winter.

One more thing, Los Angeles has a couple decades head start on dealing with their smog problems, and have done amazingly well at cleaning up the air, at the expense of outdoor barbecues, fire pits and leaded gasoline. Chile is just getting going, and has yet to figure out how to deal with the fact that a significant portion of Chilean passenger cars have diesel engines spewing tons of particulate matter into the air. I’m sure the Chileans will eventually get this problem solved, in the meantime, it’s 10:30am and I can’t see the mountains that were visible just three hours ago.

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