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March 2015

Chile - Physiography

Chile - Physiography

On March 3, 2015, the Villaricca (aka Villa Rica) volcano erupted. The Villaricca volcano is a stratovolcano, also known as a composite volcano. These towering peaks rise hundreds to thousands of meters above their surroundings. They are formed of stratified layers of viscous lava flows and fragmental material. The Villaricca volcano is 124 km northeast of Valdivia, Chile.

Chile is slightly smaller than twice the size of Montana. It has low coastal mountains with a shoreline of 6,435 km along the southern Pacific Ocean. Chile also has a fertile central valley between the coast and the rugged Andes Mountains in the east. Its climate is mostly temperate. The Atacama Desert lies in the north; it experiences cool and damp weather in the south. The natural resources of Chile include: copper, timber, iron ore, nitrates, precious metals, molybdenum, and hydropower.

Prior to the arrival of the Spanish in the 16th century, the Inca ruled northern Chile while the Mapuche inhabited central and southern Chile. Although Chile declared its independence in 1810, decisive victory over the Spanish was not achieved until 1818. It was not until the 1880s that the Mapuche were brought under central government control. A freely elected president was inaugurated in 1990. Sound economic policies, maintained consistently since the 1980s, contributed to steady growth, reduced poverty rates by over half, and helped secure the country's commitment to democratic and representative government. Chile has increasingly assumed regional and international leadership roles befitting its status as a stable, democratic nation. In January 2014, Chile assumed a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the 2014-15 term.

To learn more about volcanoes, visit the Smithsonian Institution's National Museum of Natural History: Global Volcanism Program.

Smithsonian Instituion; CIA World Factbook, 3/2015; 6/2014

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