Journal cover Journal topic
Climate of the Past An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2017-30
© Author(s) 2017. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.
Research article
13 Mar 2017
Review status
This discussion paper is under review for the journal Climate of the Past (CP).
300-years of hydrological records and societal responses to droughts and floods on the Pacific coast of Central America
Alvaro Guevara-Murua1,2, Caroline A. Williams2,3, Erica J. Hendy1,2, and Pablo Imbach4 1School of Earth Sciences, Queens Road, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1RJ, UK
2Cabot Institute, Royal Fort House, University of Bristol, Bristol, BS8 1UJ, UK
3Department of Hispanic, Portuguese and Latin American Studies, School of Modern Languages, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TE, UK
4Climate Change, Agriculture and Food Security Program (CCAFS), International Centre for Tropical Agriculture (CIAT) Hanoi, Vietnam
Abstract. The management of hydrological extremes and impacts on society is inadequately understood because of the combination of short-term hydrological records, an equally short-term assessment of societal responses and the complex multi-directional relationships between the two over longer timescales. Rainfall seasonality and interannual variability on the Pacific coast of Central America is high due to the passage of the Inter Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) and large-scale phenomena El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Here we reconstruct hydrological variability and the associated impacts drawing on documentary sources from the cities of Santiago de Guatemala (now Antigua Guatemala) and Guatemala de la Asunción (now Guatemala City) over the period from 1640 to 1945. Near continuous records of city and municipal council meetings provide a rich source of information dating back to the beginning of Spanish colonisation in the 16thC. Beginning in 1640, we use almost continuous sources, including > 190 volumes of Actas de Cabildo and Actas Municipales (minutes of meetings of the city and municipal councils) held by the Archivo Histórico de la Municipalidad de Antigua Guatemala (AHMAG) and the Archivo General de Centro América (AGCA) in Guatemala City. For this 305-year period (with the exception of a total of 11 years where the books were either missing or damaged), information relating to Catholic rogation ceremonies and reports of flooding events and crop shortages, were used to classify the annual rainy season (May to October) on a 5 point scale from very wet to very dry. In total 12 years of very wet conditions, 25 years of wetter than usual conditions, 34 years of drier conditions and 21 years of very dry conditions were identified. An extended drier period from the 1640s to the 1740s was identified as well as two shorter periods (the 1820s and the 1840s) dominated by dry conditions. Wetter conditions dominated the 1760s–1810s, possibly coincident with reconstructions of more persistent La Niña conditions that are typically associated with higher precipitation over the Pacific Coast of Central America. The 1640s–1740s dry period coincides with the onset of the Little Ice Age and the associated southward displacement of the ITCZ.

Citation: Guevara-Murua, A., Williams, C. A., Hendy, E. J., and Imbach, P.: 300-years of hydrological records and societal responses to droughts and floods on the Pacific coast of Central America, Clim. Past Discuss., https://doi.org/10.5194/cp-2017-30, in review, 2017.
Alvaro Guevara-Murua et al.
Alvaro Guevara-Murua et al.
Alvaro Guevara-Murua et al.

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Short summary
This study reconstructs a new semi-quantitative rainfall index for the Pacific coast of Central America that extends from 1640 until 1945 using historical documentary sources. In addition, we also explore the various mechanisms/processes that may explain inter-annual and inter-decadal rainfall variability over the Pacific coast of Central America.
This study reconstructs a new semi-quantitative rainfall index for the Pacific coast of Central...
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