Hydroclimatological Processes in the Central American Dry Corridor

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Hugo G Hidalgo, Ana María Durán-Quesada, Jorge A Amador, Eric J Alfaro and Gabriela Mora, University of Costa Rica, San Jose, Costa Rica
This work studies the hydroclimatological variability and the climatic precursors of drought in the Central American Dry Corridor (CADC), a subregion located in the Pacific coast of Southern Mexico and Central America. Droughts are frequent in the CADC, which is featured by a higher climatological aridity compared to the highlands and Caribbean coast of Central America. The CADC region presents large social vulnerability to hydroclimatological impacts originated from dry conditions, as there is a large part of population that depends on subsistance agriculture.

The influence of large-scale climatic precursors such as ENSO, the Caribbean Low-Level Jet (CLLJ), low frequency signals from the Pacific and Caribbean and some intra-seasonal signals such as the MJO are evaluated. Previous work by the authors identified a connection between the CLLJ and CADC precipitation. This connection is more complex than a simple rain-shadow effect, and instead it was suggested that convection at the exit of the jet in the Costa-Rica and Nicaragua Caribbean coasts and consequent subsidence in the Pacific could be playing a role in this connection. During summer, when the CLLJ is stronger than normal, the Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (located mainly in the Pacific) displaces to a more southern position, and vice-versa, suggesting a connection between these two processes that has not been fully explained yet. The role of the Western Hemisphere Warm Pool also needs more research. All this is important, as it suggest a working hypothesis that during summer, the effect of the Caribbean wind strength may be responsible for the dry climate of the CADC. 

Another previous analysis by the authors was based on downscaled precipitation and temperature from GCMs and the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis. The data was later used in a hydrological model. Results showed a negative trend in reanalysis' runoff for 1980-2012 in San José (Costa Rica) and Tegucigalpa (Honduras). This highly significant drying trend can be considered extreme when compared to the trends from 30 GCM runs for the same period. Also, drier conditions are expected at the end of the century for the Central American region. It is important to determine if these future changes are associated with strengthtening of the CLLJ, which could cause drier climate in the CADC at the end of the century.