CR 74:217-229 (2018)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01505

Record-breaking climate anomalies lead to severe drought and environmental disruption in western Patagonia in 2016

R. D. Garreaud1,2,*

1Department of Geophysics, Universidad de Chile, Blanco Encalada 2002, Santiago, Chile
2Center for Climate and Resilience Research, Universidad de Chile, Blanco Encalada 2002, Santiago, Chile
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Traditionally a temperate and hyper-humid region, western Patagonia experienced its most severe drought during the summer and fall of 2016. Along with precipitation deficits larger than 50% there was a similar reduction in river discharge into coastal waters, a decline in vegetation productivity, excessive solar radiation at the surface, and frequent upwelling-favorable wind events offshore. The combination of these regional-scale anomalies seems to have set the stage for environmental disturbances that, although not new in western Patagonia, occurred with unprecedented magnitude, including severe urban air pollution episodes, large forest fires, and the worst ever recorded harmful algae bloom (HAB). The local climate anomalies were in turn related to the concomitant strong El Niño (through atmospheric teleconnections) and, to a lesser extent, anthropogenic climate change mediated by the positive polarity of the Southern Annular Mode (SAM) and internal variability, as both modes weakened the westerlies. Dryer than present conditions are consistently projected for northern Patagonia during the 21st century as a consequence of anthropogenic increases in radiative forcing; superposition of El Niño events in this altered climate may result in a higher frequency of extreme droughts and environmental disruptions like those observed in 2016.


KEY WORDS: ENSO · Southern Annular Mode · SAM · Climate change · Patagonia · Environment · Harmful algal bloom · HAB


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Cite this article as: Garreaud RD (2018) Record-breaking climate anomalies lead to severe drought and environmental disruption in western Patagonia in 2016. Clim Res 74:217-229. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01505

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