06 May 2022
06 May 2022
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal CP.

Drought increased since the mid-20th century in the northern South American Altiplano revealed by a 389-year precipitation record

Mariano S. Morales1,2, Doris B. Crispín De La Cruz1, Claudio Álvarez3,4,5, Duncan A. Christie3,5,6, Eugenia Ferrero1,2, Laia Andreu-Hayles7,8,9, Ricardo Villalba2, Anthony Guerra10,11, Ginette Ticse-Otarola1, Ernesto Rodríguez-Ramírez1, Rosmery LLocclla Martínez1, Joali Sanchez-Ferrer1, and Edilson J. Requena-Rojas1 Mariano S. Morales et al.
  • 1Laboratorio de Dendrocronología, Universidad Continental, Huancayo, 12000, Peru
  • 2Instituto Argentino de Nivología, Glaciología y Ciencias Ambientales, CONICET, Mendoza, 5500, Argentina
  • 3Laboratorio de Dendrocronología y Cambio Global, Instituto de Conservación Biodiversidad y Territorio, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, 5110566, Chile
  • 4Escuela de Graduados, Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y Recursos Naturales, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, 5110566, Chile
  • 5Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR)2 , Santiago, 9160000, Chile
  • 6Cape Horn International Center (CHIC), Punta Arenas, 6200000, Chile
  • 7Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University, New York, NY10964, United States
  • 8CREAF, Bellaterra (Cerdanyola del Vallés), Barcelona, 081093, Spain
  • 9ICREA, Pg. Lluís Companys 23, Barcelona, 08010, Spain
  • 10Facultad de Ciencias Forestales y del Medio Ambiente, Universidad Nacional del Centro del Perú, Huancayo, Perú, Avenida Mariscal Castilla 3909, Huancayo, 12006, Perú
  • 11Missouri Botanical Garden, Pasco, Oxapampa, 19230, Peru

Abstract. Given the short span of instrumental precipitation records in the South American Altiplano, long-term hydroclimatic records are needed to understand the nature of climate variability and to improve the predictability of precipitation, a key natural resource for the socio-economic development in the Altiplano and adjacent arid lowlands. In this region grows Polylepis tarapacana, a long-lived tree species that is very sensitive to hydroclimatic changes and have been widely used for tree-ring studies in the central and southern Altiplano. However, in the northern sector of the Peruvian and Chilean Altiplano (16º–19º S) still exist a gap of hydroclimatic tree-ring records. Our study provides an overview of the temporal evolution of annual precipitation for the period 1625–2013 CE at the northern South American Altiplano, allowing for the identification of wet or dry periods based on a regional reconstruction composed by three P. tarapacana chronologies. An increase in the occurrence rate of extreme dry events, together with a decreasing trend in the reconstructed precipitation, have been recorded since the 1970s decade in the northern Altiplano within the context of the last ~four centuries. The average precipitation of the last 17-year stands out as the driest in our 389-years reconstruction. We revealed a temporal and spatial synchrony across the Altiplano region of wet conditions during the first half of the 19th century and the drought conditions since mid 1970s recorded by independent tree-ring based hydroclimate reconstructions and several paleoclimatic records based on other proxies available for the tropical Andes. The rainfall reconstruction provides also valuable information about the ENSO influences in the northern Altiplano precipitation. The spectral properties of the rainfall reconstruction showed strong imprints of ENSO variability at decadal, sub-decadal and inter-annual time-scale, in particular from the Pacific N3 sector. Overall, the remarkable recent reduction in precipitation in comparison with previous centuries, the increase in extreme dry events and the coupling between precipitation and ENSO variability reported by this work is essential information in the context of the growing demand for water resources in the Altiplano that will contribute to a better understanding of the vulnerability/resilience of the region to the projected evapotranspiration increase for the 21st century associated to global warming.

Mariano S. Morales et al.

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on cp-2022-37', Anonymous Referee #1, 25 May 2022 reply
    • AC1: 'Reply on RC1', Mariano Morales, 05 Sep 2022 reply

Mariano S. Morales et al.

Mariano S. Morales et al.


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Short summary
In this study, we develop the first tree-ring based precipitation reconstruction for the northern South American Altiplano back to 1625 CE. We established the significance of our reconstruction by using it to determine that the occurrence rate of extreme dry events together with a shift in mean dry conditions for the late 20th-beginning 21st century is unprecedented in the past 389 years. Our reconstruction provides also valuable information about the ENSO influences in the local precipitation.