CLIMATE NATIONAL

“Hotspot” in the Pacific a likely drought-driver in Chile

A recent study indicates that an unusual build-up of warm water in the Pacific Ocean is directing storm paths away from Chile. This study is the first to link the hotspot with the drought in Chile. Scientists still do not know when or if the hotspot will dissipate.

A study published in the Journal of Climate suggests that Chile’s ongoing 10-year drought is linked to a hotspot that developed in the Pacific Ocean over 30 years ago.

The hotspot creates a warm environment in the area, which diffuses storms and rain water from the west South American coast, and instead directs them to Antarctica.

Chile Today spoke with meteorologist Diego Campos, who said that the hotspot had already been considered in the forecast and monitoring from the National Meteorological Direction in Chile, but without much knowledge of what consequences it might have. “We already knew this hotspot was really important, but this study comes in handy for us, because it links the hotspot with the drought.”

“The hotspot originated due to a decrease in rain water in the Central Equatorial Pacific. This generates a disturbance in the atmosphere. Also, because of the lack of rain, the area is less cloudy, which increases radiation absorbance, which further increases the region’s temperature.”

“Once the temperature rises, the warm air starts to move, reaching a big portion of central Chile. This makes the Tropical Anticyclone intensify, which is related to the low levels of rain.”

Also read:

Temperature swings and rain deficits: Chile rocked by unusual winter weather

The hotspot

The hotspot, located on the southwest of the Pacific Ocean, specifically to the east of Australia and New Zealand, causes a shift in the wind patterns in the area, redirecting warm water currents, focusing them on the surface of the water column, and colder currents are pushed down deeper.

The warm water also heats up the air on top of it, which then creates a high pressure zone, which in turn changes the directions storms move through the ocean, such that they are no longer headed where they went in years past, which in this case means Chile and Argentina’s central zones and parts of the Andes mountains.

The warmer temperatures are also reaching Antarctica, causing the ice to melt and a further desestabilizacion on the environment.

The co-author of the study, Kyle Clem, said that it shows that “with man-made climate change, what happens in one place doesn’t necessarily stay there.”

Yet to be determined is whether the hotspot might dissipate over time.

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