What is the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current?

About Galapagos Islands

Humboldt-Peruvian-Current-Map-SmallThe Humboldt Current is a current of cold Antarctic water which is brought to the surface by air currents.

These air currents move across the surface of the water northward from the coast of Chile to Peru and cause a kind of sucking motion on the water currents.

As the water moves along the west coast of South America it is pushed out by the wind, which pulls the deeper water up to the surface, causing an upwelling.  An upwelling occurs when deeper cooler water is brought to the surface, replacing the warmer surface water of the Panama Current.

The water that is brought to the surface is nutrient rich.  It brings with it all the nutrients created from sinking decomposed organic matter.  This nutrient rich water attracts fish which feed on it, and other marine life which feed on the fish.

This cool water current flows from Peru toward the Equator reaching up to 1000 km offshore.  It brings cool nutrient rich waters to the Galapagos June through November.  The cooler water temperatures result in cooler land temperatures as well.  And because the air is cooled by the current there is not as much rainfall during this time of year.  This is what’s often referred to as the “dry season” in the Galapagos Islands.

We visited the Galapagos during this time of year and it was by no means cold.  We were comfortable swimming and snorkeling in our wetsuits.  I guess the term cooler is relative to the warmer season which runs December through May.

During this season the water temperature drops from around 70°F (21°C) to 80°F (27°C) – December to May,  down to around 65°F (18°C) to 75°F (23°C) – June through November.

A warm water current called El Niño sometimes throws off the Humboldt Current.  When El Niño occurs, the results can be devastating on the animals and the environment.

What is the Humboldt Current?

The Humboldt Current is considered a marine ecosystem and is the most productive in the world.

It is also the largest upwelling system in the world.  It’s named after Alexander von Humboldt, a German natural scientist and explorer. It is also known as the Peruvian Current.


If you are interested in diving and snorkeling, visiting the Galapagos while the Humboldt current is present would be an especially wonderful time to see the marine life attracted to it’s nutrient rich waters.  You may even see some of the whales that are also interested in the fish attracted by this current.

Meet the Author

Hi, I'm Dena Haines! I'm an traveler, photographer and Canadian entrepreneur. I'm a partner at Storyteller Media, a content marketing company for travel brands. I blog at GringosAbroad (Ecuador travel) and Click Like This (How to Use a GoPro).

2 comments… add one
  • Mario Silva Apr 3, 2017, 5:14 am

    I wonder why the majority of people doesn’t know the existence of the Humboldt (Peruvian) Current? and talk about La niña Current?

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