The Andes cordillera runs near the west coast of South America from Venezuela (∼10°N) to the southern tip of the continent (∼53°S), thus encompassing a rich variety of mountain climates and ecosystems, from very humid conditions near the equator and over western Patagonia to the hyper arid conditions in the subtropics. Consistent with its continuity and height, the Andes also produces strong contrasting climate conditions along the eastern and western slopes and adjacent lowlands.

The Andes is a narrow, nearly two-dimensional mountain range, with the exception of a portion between 15°-22°S where it splits into two mountain ranges holding the South American Altiplano, a closed, high level (4000 m ASL) plateau. Likewise, the Andes splits in three branches to the north of the equator, with major rivers draining into the Caribbean Sea.

The Andes provides ecosystem services, starting with the provision of fresh water to nearly 80 million people in seven countries (Venezuela, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, Bolivia, Chile and Argentina), and at the same time sets the stage for the occurrence of disasters from hydrometeorological extreme events which periodically take a high toll in human and animal lives and, infrastructure and agriculture losses.

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