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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-249
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-249
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  18 Jun 2020

18 Jun 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Progressive water deficits during multi-year droughts in central-south Chile

Camila Alvarez-Garreton1,2, Juan Pablo Boisier1,3, René Garreaud1,3, Jan Seibert4, and Marc Vis4 Camila Alvarez-Garreton et al.
  • 1Center for Climate and Resilience Research (CR2, FONDAP 15110009), Santiago, Chile
  • 2Department of Civil Engineering, Universidad de La Frontera, Temuco, Chile
  • 3Department of Geophysics, Universidad de Chile, Santiago, Chile
  • 4Department of Geography, University of Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland

Abstract. A decade-long (2010–2019) period with precipitation deficits in central-south Chile (30–41º S), the so-called megadrought (MD), has led to larger than expected hydrological response and water deficits, indicating an intensification in drought propagation. We used the CAMELS-CL dataset and simulations from the HBV hydrological model to explore the causes of such intensification. Across 124 basins with varying snow/rainfall regimes, we compared annual rainfall-runoff (R-R) relationships and runoff generation mechanisms before and during the MD, and identified those catchments where drought propagation was intensified. We show that catchments’ hydrological memory -mediated by groundwater flows- is a key control of drought propagation intensity, and that baseflow contribution to runoff is positively correlated with snow accumulation preceding the year affected by a drought. Hence, under persistent drought conditions, snow-dominated catchments progressively generate less water, compared with their historical behaviour, notably affecting the semi-arid regions in central Chile. Finally, we addressed a general question: what is worse, an extreme single year drought or a persistent moderate drought? In semi-arid regions, where water provision strongly depends on both the current and previous precipitation seasons, the worst scenario would be an extreme meteorological drought following consecutive years of precipitation below average. In temperate regions of southern Chile, where catchments have more pluvial regimes, hydrologic memory is still an important factor, but water supply is more strongly dependant on the meteorological conditions of the current year, and therefore an extreme drought would have a higher impact on water supply than a persistent but moderate drought.

Camila Alvarez-Garreton et al.

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Camila Alvarez-Garreton et al.

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Short summary
The megadrought experienced since 2010 in Chile has led to larger than expected water deficits, indicating an intensification in drought propagation. By analysing 124 catchments with varying snow/rainfall regimes, we show that such intensification is related to the hydrological memory of the catchments, and we identify the mechanisms associated to this memory. Under persistent dry conditions, snow-dominated catchments progressively generate less water, compared with their historical behaviour.
The megadrought experienced since 2010 in Chile has led to larger than expected water deficits,...
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