Preprints
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-543
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2021-543

  12 Nov 2021

12 Nov 2021

Review status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

The Mesoamerican mid-summer drought: the impact of its definition on occurrences and recent changes

Edwin P. Maurer1, Iris T. Stewart2, Kenneth Joseph3, and Hugo G. Hidalgo4 Edwin P. Maurer et al.
  • 1Civil, Environmental, and Sustainable Engineering Department, Santa Clara University, USA
  • 2Department of Environmental Studies and Sciences, Santa Clara University, USA
  • 3Department of Bioengineering, Santa Clara University, USA
  • 4Universidad de Costa Rica, Centro de Investigaciones Geofísicas (CIGEFI) y Escuela de Física, San José, Costa Rica

Abstract. The mid-summer drought, veranillo or canícula, is a phenomenon experienced in many areas, including Mexico, Central America, and the Caribbean. It generally is experienced as reduced rainfall in July–August, in the middle of the typical rainy season (May–September). Many past studies have attempted to quantify changes in mid-summer drought characteristics during the recent past or for future climate projections. To do this, objective definitions of a mid-summer drought’s occurrence, strength and duration have been developed by many researchers. In this effort we adopt a recent set of definitions and examine the impact of varying these on the characterization of mid-summer droughts and the detected changes over the past four decades. We find the selection of a minimum intensity threshold has a dramatic effect on the results of both the area considered as experiencing a mid-summer drought and the changes detected in the recent historical record. The intensity chosen can affect both the magnitude and direction of changes reported in the recent observed record. Further, we find that the typical mid-summer drought pattern may not be occurring during the time it has historically; whether examining past or future changes or developing improved seasonal forecasts, the non-stationarity of its timing should be accommodated.

Edwin P. Maurer et al.

Status: open (until 12 Jan 2022)

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Edwin P. Maurer et al.

Edwin P. Maurer et al.

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Short summary
The mid-summer drought (MSD) is common in Mesoamerica. It is a short (weeks) period of reduced rainfall near the middle of the rainy season. When it occurs, how long it lasts, and how dry it is all have important implications for smallholder farmers. Studies of changes in MSD characteristics rely on defining characteristics of an MSD. Different definitions affect whether an area would be considered to experience an MSD as well as the changes that have happened in the last 40 years.