During the period 2010–2015, the semi-arid Central Andes in Argentina (CAA) experienced one of the most severe and long-lasting hydrological droughts on record. Since the snowmelt is the most important source of water, the reduced snowfall over the mountains propagated the drought signal through the streamflows in the adjacent foothills east of the Andes ranges. Motivated by the widespread impacts on the socio-economic activities in the region, this study aims to characterize the recent hydrological drought in terms of streamflow deficits. Based on streamflow data from 20 basins, we used the standardized streamflow index (SSI) to characterize hydrological droughts during the period 1971–2016. We found that the regional extent of the 2010–2015 hydrological drought was limited to the basins located north of 38° S, with mean duration of 67 months and maximum drought severity exhibiting a heterogeneous pattern in terms of spatial distribution and time of occurrence. The drought event reached extreme conditions in 14 of the 15 basins in the CAA, being record-breaking drought in six of the basins. This condition was likely driven by a cooling in the tropical Pacific Ocean resembling La Niña conditions, which generated a decrease in snowfall over the Andes due to suppressed frontal activity.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited