Climate Dynamics

, Volume 36, Issue 11–12, pp 2233–2249 | Cite as

Hydro-climatic variability over the Andes of Colombia associated with ENSO: a review of climatic processes and their impact on one of the Earth’s most important biodiversity hotspots

  • Germán PovedaEmail author
  • Diana M. Álvarez
  • Óscar A. Rueda


The hydro-climatic variability of the Colombian Andes associated with El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) is reviewed using records of rainfall, river discharges, soil moisture, and a vegetation index (NDVI) as a surrogate for evapotranspiration. Anomalies in the components of the surface water balance during both phases of ENSO are quantified in terms of their sign, timing, and magnitude. During El Niño (La Niña), the region experiences negative (positive) anomalies in rainfall, river discharges (average and extremes), soil moisture, and NDVI. ENSO’s effects are phase-locked to the seasonal cycle, being stronger during December–February, and weaker during March–May. Besides, rainfall and river discharges anomalies show that the ENSO signal exhibits a westerly wave-like propagation, being stronger (weaker) and earlier (later) over the western (eastern) Andes. Soil moisture anomalies are land-cover type dependant, but overall they are enhanced by ENSO, showing very low values during El Niño (mainly during dry seasons), but saturation values during La Niña. A suite of large-scale and regional mechanisms cooperating at the ocean–atmosphere–land system are reviewed to explaining the identified hydro-climatic anomalies. This review contributes to an understanding of the hydro-climatic framework of a region identified as the most critical hotspot for biodiversity on Earth, and constitutes a wake-up call for scientists and policy-makers alike, to take actions and mobilize resources and minds to prevent the further destruction of the region’s valuable hydrologic and biodiversity resources and ecosystems. It also sheds lights towards the implementation of strategies and adaptation plans to coping with threats from global environmental change.


Tropics Hydro-climatology Andes Colombia ENSO Biodiversity 



This research was supported by COLCIENCIAS and Universidad Nacional de Colombia through the GRECIA Research Programme. We thank Instituto de Hidrología, Meteorología y Estudios Ambientales de Colombia (IDEAM), Empresas Públicas de Medellín (EPM), and Cenicafé for providing hydrological data sets. NDVI data set was provided by C.J. Tucker and J. Pinzón from the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center. We are grateful to H.A. Moreno, O.O. Hernández, C.D. Hoyos, V. Toro, A. Ceballos, and L.A. Acevedo for their help with some figures, and to Peter Bunyard, the Editor, Dr. Edwin K. Schneider, and the anonymous reviewers for their valuable comments and insights to improve the manuscript.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  • Germán Poveda
    • 1
    Email author
  • Diana M. Álvarez
    • 1
  • Óscar A. Rueda
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.School of Geosciences and EnvironmentUniversidad Nacional de ColombiaMedellínColombia
  2. 2.Grupo HTMMedellínColombia

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