Articles | Volume 16, issue 5
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1389–1399, 2012
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 16, 1389–1399, 2012

Research article 11 May 2012

Research article | 11 May 2012

Coupled decadal variability of the North Atlantic Oscillation, regional rainfall and karst spring discharges in the Campania region (southern Italy)

P. De Vita, V. Allocca, F. Manna, and S. Fabbrocino P. De Vita et al.
  • Dipartimento di Scienze della Terra – University of Naples "Federico II", Italy

Abstract. Thus far, studies on climate change have focused mainly on the variability of the atmospheric and surface components of the hydrologic cycle, investigating the impact of this variability on the environment, especially with respect to the risks of desertification, droughts and floods. Conversely, the impacts of climate change on the recharge of aquifers and on the variability of groundwater flow have been less investigated, especially in Mediterranean karst areas whose water supply systems depend heavily upon groundwater exploitation.

In this paper, long-term climatic variability and its influence on groundwater recharge were analysed by examining decadal patterns of precipitation, air temperature and spring discharges in the Campania region (southern Italy), coupled with the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO).

The time series of precipitation and air temperature were gathered over 90 yr, from 1921 to 2010, using 18 rain gauges and 9 air temperature stations with the most continuous functioning. The time series of the winter NAO index and of the discharges of 3 karst springs, selected from those feeding the major aqueducts systems, were collected for the same period.

Regional normalised indexes of the precipitation, air temperature and karst spring discharges were calculated, and different methods were applied to analyse the related time series, including long-term trend analysis using smoothing numerical techniques, cross-correlation and Fourier analysis.

The investigation of the normalised indexes highlighted the existence of long-term complex periodicities, from 2 to more than 30 yr, with differences in average values of up to approximately ±30% for precipitation and karst spring discharges, which were both strongly correlated with the winter NAO index.

Although the effects of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) had already been demonstrated in the long-term precipitation and streamflow patterns of different European countries and Mediterranean areas, the results of this study allow for the establishment of a link between a large-scale atmospheric cycle and the groundwater recharge of carbonate karst aquifers. Consequently, the winter NAO index could also be considered as a proxy to forecast the decadal variability of groundwater flow in Mediterranean karst areas.