Mexican megadrought

  • Hunt B
  • Elliott T
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Abstract

Around 1550 AD a megadrought occurred in Mexico, possibly resulting in the death of over 80% of the Indian population at that time from disease. By any measure this was a major disaster that warrants serious examination. A 10,000-year simulation with the CSIRO Mark2 coupled global climatic model has been used to investigate the existence and genesis of major droughts in the Mexican region. One megadrought event was identified and a number of droughts lasting a decade or longer were also found. Average reductions in rainfall of 20 to 40% over the duration of these droughts were found to occur. While there is a mechanistic link be- tween El Nin˜ o events and drought over Mexico, this link is tenuous, as shown by observations and this simula- tion. Stochastic processes appear to have a considerable influence on Mexican rainfall, and contribute to the weakness of the El Nin˜ o influence on such rainfall. It is shown that for both El Nin˜ o events and stochastic processes drought is created over Mexico by the reduc- tion of the intensity of the climatological high pressure system in this region. This reduces the influx of moisture associated with the monsoonal system and thus rainfall. While only one ‘megadrought’ was found in the 10,000- year simulation thirteen droughts lasting over a decade occurred, suggesting that a devastating drought in the Mexican region has a return period of less than 1000 years and represents a non-trivial potential problem for this region.

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Authors

  • B. G. Hunt

  • T. I. Elliott

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