Climate diagnostics of the extreme floods in Peru during early 2017
From January through March 2017, a series of extreme precipitation events occurred in coastal Peru, causing severe floods with hundreds of human casualties and billions of dollars in economic losses. The extreme precipitation was a result of unusually strong recurrent patterns of atmospheric and oceanic conditions, including extremely warm coastal sea surface temperatures (SST) and weakened trade winds. These climatic features and their causal relationship with the Peruvian precipitation were examined. Diagnostic analysis and model experiments suggest that an atmospheric forcing in early 2017, which was moderately linked to the Trans-Niño Index (TNI), initiated the local SST warming along coastal Peru that later expanded to the equator. In January 2017, soil moisture was increased by an unusual expansion of Amazonian rainfall. By March, localized and robust SST warming provided positive feedback to the weakening of the trade winds, leading to increased onshore wind and a subsequent enhancement in rainfall. The analysis points to a tendency towards more frequent and stronger variations in the water vapor flux convergence along the equator, which is associated with the increased precipitation in coastal Peru.
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