Spatiotemporal patterns of ENSO-precipitation relationships in the tropical Andes of southern Peru and Bolivia

Joseph A. Jonaitis, L. Baker Perry, Peter T. Soulé, Christopher Thaxton, Marcos F. Andrade-Flores, Tania Ita Vargas, Laura Ticona

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2 Scopus citations


Precipitation in the outer tropical Andes is highly seasonal, exhibits considerable interannual variability, and is vital for regulating freshwater availability, flooding, glacier mass balance, and droughts. The primary driver of interannual variability is El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO), with most investigations reporting that the El Niño (La Niña) results in negative (positive) precipitation anomalies across the region. Recent investigations, however, have identified substantial spatiotemporal differences in ENSO-precipitation relationships. Motivated by the dissimilarity of these findings, this study examines a carefully selected data set (≥ 90% completeness) of ground-based precipitation observations from 75 high-elevation (≥ 2,500 m above sea level) meteorological stations in the tropical Andes of southern Peru and Bolivia for the period 1972–2016. Distinct groups of stations and associated variability in precipitation characteristics (e.g., total seasonal precipitation, wet season onset, and wet season length) are identified. Using no spatial constraints, the K-Means algorithm optimally grouped stations into five easily identifiable groups. The groups farthest from the Amazon basin had significant negative (positive) precipitation anomalies (p <.05) during El Niño (La Niña), aligning with the traditional view of ENSO-precipitation relationships while groups closest to the Amazon had opposite relationships. Additionally, though studies have reported delays in the wet season, years characterized by El Niño had an earlier wet season onset in all five groups. These findings may aid in improving seasonal climate prediction and managing water resources, and could allow for improved interpretation of tropical Andean ice cores.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)4061-4076
Number of pages16
JournalInternational Journal of Climatology
Issue number8
StatePublished - 30 Jun 2021

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The authors are grateful to the dedicated professionals of SENAMHI Peru, SENAMHI Bolivia, the DECADE Project, and the ESRL of NOAA for the countless hours of work necessary to observe, formulate, and make available the critical climate data for this paper. This work is supported by funding from the National Science Foundation Grant AGS-1347179 (CAREER: Multiscale Investigations of Tropical Andean Precipitation) to L.B. Perry. Special thanks are also due to Dr. Johnathan Sugg, Dr. Anton Seimon, Dr. Alice Weldon, and Montana Eck for invaluable advice and feedback, and to partners and other family members for their patience and loving support.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 Royal Meteorological Society


  • Bolivia
  • ENSO
  • Peru
  • precipitation
  • tropical Andes


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