The impact of extreme El Niño events on modern sediment transport along the western Peruvian Andes (1968–2012)

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Morera, Sergio B.
Condom, Thomas
Crave, Alain
Steer, Philippe
Guyot, Jean L.
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Springer Nature
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Climate change is considered as one of the main factors controlling sediment fluxes in mountain belts. However, the effect of El Niño, which represents the primary cause of inter-annual climate variability in the South Pacific, on river erosion and sediment transport in the Western Andes remains unclear. Using an unpublished dataset of Suspended Sediment Yield (SSY) in Peru (1968–2012), we show that the annual SSY increases by 3–60 times during Extreme El Niño Events (EENE) compared to normal years. During EENE, 82% to 97% of the annual SSY occurs from January to April. We explain this effect by a sharp increase in river water discharge due to high precipitation rates and transport capacity during EENE. Indeed, sediments accumulate in the mountain and piedmont areas during dry normal years, and are then rapidly mobilized during EENE years. The effect of EENE on SSY depends on the topography, as it is maximum for catchments located in the North of Peru (3–7°S), exhibiting a concave up hypsometric curve, and minimum for catchments in the South (7–18°S), with a concave down hypsometric curve. These findings highlight how the sediment transport of different topographies can respond in very different ways to large climate variability.
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Geofisica, El Niño, Climate change