The 2014 Central American drought in the context of hdro-climatic variability and change

Authors: Iris Stewart-Frey*, Santa Clara University
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Climatology and Meteorology, Latin America
Keywords: hydroclimate, climate change, Central America
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/5/2019
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:40 AM
Room: Madison B, Marriott, Mezzanine Level
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Smallholder farmers across Central America have relied on rain-fed agricultural practices adapted to local precipitation patterns for food and water security. Droughts in the region have been linked to crop failures, outbreaks of pests and plant disease, economic losses, and health impacts. Under global warming, output from GCMs project overall precipitation decreases for Central America by the end of the century. Although global surface temperature has been increasing, and hydro-climatic shifts consistent with GCM predictions have been observed in other regions, the magnitude, direction, and significance of any recent precipitation changes over Central America is not clear. We use CHIRPS, a 30+ years gridded historical data set at the 0.05° spatial resolution to investigate hydro-climatic shifts in the region for the recent decades (1981 – 2017). The parameters analyzed are (i) trends in the monthly and annual precipitation, (ii) the timing, and magnitude of the rainy season(s), and (iii) the intensity, timing, frequency, duration, and spatial extent of drought. Results indicate shifts in the intensity and timing of the rainy periods and the midsummer drought and more intense and more frequent drought periods along the Meso-American dry corridor. The direction of the shift resembles the much larger shift anticipated with continued climate disruption, and thus may be a starting point for crafting adaptation policy.

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