Spinning fiction out of Colombian climate

The fractured mix of coastline and mountain across northernmost Colombia and Venezuela is laced with small-scale weather regimes that violate the normal rules of climate. As the childhood home of novelist Gabriel Garcia Marquez, this land was fertile ground for the blend of magic and realism that permeates his writing. Garcia Marquez grew up in Aracataca, a town between the east coast of the Gulf of Venezuela and the compact Sierra Nevada de Santa Marta. Because the cool oceanic inversion is so strong along the Colombian coast, trade winds can't ascend the Sierra and produce the usual heavy rains on the windward side. Instead, they wrap around the mountains and converge on the leeward side, making the region around Aracataca more than four times wetter than the Guajira Peninsula (less than 160km/100 miles to the north). As geographer Gary Elbow has noted, it only took a dash of literary licence for Garcia Marquez to write in One Hundred Years of Solitude about a rain that lasted “four years, eleven months, and two days” – or to depict the Guajira Peninsula in his novella Erendira as a place with “miserable and burning streets where the goats committed suicide from desolation when the wind of misfortune blew”.