ENSO-conditioned rainfall drought frequency analysis in northwest Baja California, Mexico

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Located in northwest Baja California, Mexico, the Guadalupe River Basin is situated in a semiarid region where periods of drought pose serious economic, social and environmental concerns. The study area has highly variable climate, with mean annual precipitation ranging from less than 12 mm to over 750 mm a year across the basin, and with most of the annual precipitation occurring during the autumn and winter seasons. To quantify the frequency and severity of meteorological droughts at the local (watershed) scale, this study investigates seasonal and annual precipitation data from 34 sites in northwest Baja California. Along with the analysis of precipitation climatology and interannual variability, El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and related Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature (SST) patterns are shown to be potential predictors of seasonal precipitation. Analysis of precipitation variability at seasonal and annual time scales is performed using the standardized precipitation index (SPI) methodology, and annual, seasonal, and ENSO-conditioned precipitation frequency analyses are executed using the regional L-moment algorithm. The SPI and regional rainfall drought frequency estimates developed in this study may be useful for monitoring meteorological droughts and could serve as critical components of a comprehensive drought management plan. Furthermore, the methods applied in this study may be transferred to other semi-arid locations to mitigate drought risk and, potentially, impacts of drier conditions in the 21st century. © 2011 Royal Meteorological Society.

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International Journal of Climatology