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Discussion papers | Copyright
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2018-107
© Author(s) 2018. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Research article 03 Apr 2018

Research article | 03 Apr 2018

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It has been under review for the journal Hydrology and Earth System Sciences (HESS). The manuscript was not accepted for further review after discussion.

ENSO-triggered floods in South America: correlation between maximum monthly discharges during strong events

Federico Ignacio Isla Federico Ignacio Isla
  • 1Instituto de Geología de Costas y del Cuaternario (UNMDP-CIC)
  • 2Instituto de Investigaciones Marinas y Costeras (UNMDP-CONICET)

Abstract. ENSO-triggered floods altered completely the annual discharge of many watersheds of South America. Anomalous years as 1941, 1982–83, 1997–98 and 2015–16 signified enormous fluvial discharges draining towards the Pacific Ocean, but also to the Atlantic. These floods affected large cities built on medium-latitudinal Andes (Lima, Quito, Salta), but also those located at floodplains, as Porto Alegre, Blumenau, Curitiba, Asunción, Santa Fe and Buenos Aires. Maximum discharge months are particular and easily distinguished along time series from watersheds located at the South American Arid Diagonal. At watersheds conditioned by precipitations delivered from the Atlantic or Pacific anti-cyclonic centers, the ENSO-triggered floods are more difficult to discern. The floods of 1941 affected 70,000 inhabitants in Porto Alegre. In 1983, Blumenau city was flooded during several days; and the Paraná River multiplied 15 times the width of its middle floodplain. That year, the Colorado River in Northern Patagonia connected for the last time to the Desagûadero – Chadileuvú – Curacó system and its delta received saline water for the last time. During strong ENSO years the water balances of certain piedmont lakes of Southern Patagonia are modified as the increases in snow accumulations cause high water levels, with a lag of 13 months. The correlation between the maximum monthly discharges of 1982–83 and 1997–98 at different regions and watersheds indicates they can be forecasted for future floods triggered by same phenomena. South American rivers can be classified therefore into ENSO-affected and ENSO-dominated for those within the Arid Diagonal that are exclusively subject to high discharges during those years.

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Federico Ignacio Isla
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Federico Ignacio Isla
Federico Ignacio Isla
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Short summary
ENSO floods are significantly affecting South America during some years. Although they were reported since the arrival of the Spanish, strong ENSOs particularly stroke in 1941, 1982–83, 1997–98 and 2015/16, either in those watersheds oriented to the Pacific Ocean but also to the wide Atlantic floodplains. The modern reports from different countries are indicating that maximum monthly discharges are correlated, and therefore considered to plan improvements.
ENSO floods are significantly affecting South America during some years. Although they were...
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