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Carlos Le Quesne, David W. Stahle, Malcolm K. Cleaveland, Matthew D. Therrell, Juan Carlos Aravena, and Jonathan Barichivich

Abstract

An expanded network of moisture-sensitive tree-ring chronologies has been developed for central Chile from long-lived cypress trees in the Andean Cordillera. A regional ring width chronology of cypress sites has been used to develop well-calibrated and verified estimates of June–December precipitation totals for central Chile extending from a.d. 1200 to 2000. These reconstructions are confirmed in part by historical references to drought in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries and by nineteenth-century observations on the position of the Río Cipreses glacier. Analyses of the return intervals between droughts in the instrumental and reconstructed precipitation series indicate that the probability of drought has increased dramatically during the late nineteenth and twentieth centuries, consistent with selected long instrumental precipitation records and with the general recession of glaciers in the Andean Cordillera. This increased drought risk has occurred along with the growing demand on surface water resources and may heighten socioeconomic sensitivity to climate variability in central Chile.

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