Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile
Oertel M., Meza F., Gironás J. (2020)

Observed trends and relationships between ENSO and standardized hydrometeorological drought indices in central Chile

Revista : Hydrological Processes
Volumen : 34
Número : 2
Páginas : 159-174
Tipo de publicación : ISI Ir a publicación


Droughts are natural phenomena that severely affect socio economic and ecological systems. In Chile, population and economic activities are highly concentrated in its central region (i.e. between latitudes 29S and 40S), which periodically suffers from severe droughts affecting agriculture, hydropower, and mining. Understanding the dynamics of droughts and large-scale atmospheric processes that influence the occurrence of dry spells is essential for forecasting and efficient early detection of drought events. Central Chile’s climate is marked by a significant El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) influence that might help to better characterize droughts as well as to identify the effects of ENSO on the spatial and temporal characteristics of meteorological and hydrological droughts in the region. We analysed the behaviour of the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and Standardized Streamflow Index (SSI) time series for 6-month accumulation periods over the austral winter and summer seasons. Multiple linear regression (MLR) and Generalized Linear Models (GLM) showed a significant ENSO influence on dry events for SPEI-6 and SSI-6 during winter and summer. We found that the magnitude of correlation between ENSO and SPEI-6 has changed over the last decades becoming weaker in winter periods and increasing in spring summer periods. Increasing trends in meteorological and hydrological drought events were also identified, along all latitudes, with significant trends during winter in the southern latitudes, and during summer in the semi-arid and Mediterranean zones. These results indicate that drought mitigationactions and policies are necessary to overcome their adverse effects. Given the monthly persistence of ENSO and its relationship to drought indices, there are opportunities for drought monitoring and seasonal forecasting that could become part of national drought management systems.