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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-191
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
26 Apr 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS).
The 2010–2015 mega drought in Central Chile: Impacts on regional hydroclimate and vegetation
René Garreaud1,2, Camila Alvarez-Garreton3,2, Jonathan Barichivich3,2, Juan Pablo Boisier1,2, Duncan Christie3,2, Mauricio Galleguillos4,2, Carlos LeQuesne3, James McPhee5, and Mauricio Zambrano-Bigiarini6,2 1Department of Geophysics, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
2Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2), Santiago, Chile
3Laboratorio de Dendrocronología y Cambio Global, Instituto de Conservación Biodiversidad y Territorio, Universidad Austral de Chile, Valdivia, Chile
4Faculty of Agronomic Sciences, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
5Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
6Department of Civil Engineering, Faculty of Engineering and Sciences, Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco, Chile
Abstract. Since 2010 an uninterrupted sequence of dry years, with annual rainfall deficits ranging from 25 to 45 %, has prevailed in Central Chile (western South America, 30–38° S). Although intense 1- or 2-year droughts are recurrent in this Mediterranean-like region, the ongoing event stands out because of its longevity and large spatial extent. The extraordinary character of the so-called Central Chile Mega Drought (MD) was established against century long historical records and a millennial tree-ring reconstruction of regional precipitation. The largest MD-averaged rainfall relative anomalies occurred in the northern, semi-arid sector of central Chile but the event was unprecedented to the south of 35° S. ENSO neutral conditions have prevailed since 2011 (but for the strong El Niño 2015) contrasting with La Niña conditions that often accompanied past droughts. The precipitation deficit diminished the Andean snowpack and resulted in amplified declines (up to 90 %) of river flow, reservoir volumes and groundwater levels along central Chile and westernmost Argentina. In some semiarid basins we also found a conspicuous decrease in the runoff-to-rainfall coefficient. A substantial decrease in vegetation productivity occurred in the shrubland-dominated, northern sector, but a mix of greening and browning patches occurred farther south where irrigated croplands and exotic forest plantations dominate. The ongoing warming in central Chile, making the MD one of the warmest 6-year period on record, may have also contributed to such complex vegetation changes by increasing potential evapotranspiration. The understanding of the nature and biophysical impacts of the MD contributes to preparedness efforts to face a dry, warm future regional climate scenario.

Citation: Garreaud, R., Alvarez-Garreton, C., Barichivich, J., Boisier, J. P., Christie, D., Galleguillos, M., LeQuesne, C., McPhee, J., and Zambrano-Bigiarini, M.: The 2010–2015 mega drought in Central Chile: Impacts on regional hydroclimate and vegetation, Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci. Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2017-191, in review, 2017.
René Garreaud et al.
René Garreaud et al.
René Garreaud et al.

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Short summary
This work synthesizes an interdisciplinary research on the Mega Drought (MD) that has afflicted Central Chile since 2010. Although 1- or 2-year droughts are not infrequent in this Mediterranean-like region, the ongoing dry period stands out because of its longevity and large extent, leading to unseeing hydrological effects and vegetation impacts. Understanding the nature and biophysical impacts of the MD contributes to face a dry, warm future regional climate scenario in subtropical regions.
This work synthesizes an interdisciplinary research on the Mega Drought (MD) that has afflicted...
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