Mechanisms for severe drought occurrence in the Balsas River Basin (Mexico)



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Melgarejo, Ana E. and Ordóñez, Paulina and Nieto, Raquel and Peña Ortiz, Cristina and García Herrera, Ricardo and Gimeno, Luis (2021) Mechanisms for severe drought occurrence in the Balsas River Basin (Mexico). Atmosphere, 12 (3). ISSN 2073-4433

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This work provides an assessment of the two most intense seasonal droughts that occurred over the Balsas River Basin (BRB) in the period 1980–2017. The detection of the drought events was performed using the 6 month scale standardized precipitation–evapotranspiration index (SPEI-6) and the 6 month standardized precipitation index (SPI-6) in October. Both indices were quite similar during the studied period, highlighting the larger contribution of precipitation deficits vs. temperature excess to the drought occurrence in the basin. The origin of the atmospheric water arriving to the BRB (1 May 1980–31 October 2017) was investigated by using a Lagrangian diagnosis method. The BRB receives moisture from the Caribbean Sea and the rest of the tropical Atlantic, the Gulf of Mexico, the eastern north Pacific and from three terrestrial evaporative sources: the region north of BRB, the south of BRB and the BRB itself. The terrestrial evaporative source of the BRB itself is by far the main moisture source. The two most intense drought events that occurred in the studied period were selected for further analysis. During the severe drought of 2005, the summertime sea surface temperature (SST) soared over the Caribbean Sea, extending eastward into a large swathe of tropical North Atlantic, which was accompanied by the record to date of hurricane activity. This heating generated a Rossby wave response with westward propagating anticyclonic/cyclonic gyres in the upper/lower troposphere. A cyclonic low-level circulation developed over the Gulf of Mexico and prevented the moisture from arriving to the BRB, with a consequent deficit in precipitation. Additionally, subsidence also prevented convection in most of the months of this drought period. During the extreme drought event of 1982, the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) remained southern and stronger than the climatological mean over the eastern tropical Pacific, producing an intense regional Hadley circulation. The descent branch of this cell inhibited the development of convection over the BRB, although the moisture sources increased their contributions; however, these were bounded to the lower levels by a strong trade wind inversion.

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© 2021 by the authors. This research was funded by the project PAPIIT (DGAPA-UNAM) IN116120 “Caracterización climática y sinóptica de las olas de calor en México”. EPhysLab is partially funded by Xunta de Galicia under the project “Programa de Consolidación e Estructuración de Unidades de Investigación Competitivas (Grupos de Referencia Competitiva)” (no. ED431C 2017/64-GRC), co-funded by the ERDF, in the agenda of the Operational Program Galicia 2014–2020.

Uncontrolled Keywords:Drought; SPEI; SPI; Moisture transport; Flexpart; Trade wind inversion
Subjects:Sciences > Physics > Atmospheric physics
ID Code:65288
Deposited On:17 May 2021 16:22
Last Modified:19 May 2021 15:13

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