Climatic Change

, 75:391 | Cite as

Decades of Drought, Years of Hunger: Archival Investigations of Multiple Year Droughts in Late Colonial Chihuahua

  • Georgina H. EndfieldEmail author
  • Isabel Fern´ndez Tejedo


Unusually severe or prolonged drought ranks among the most devastating and calamitous of all extreme climate events, contributing to wildfires, crop failure, livestock death, food shortages and famine. The response of human activities and the natural environment to such historical weather perturbations provides a guide to where the most critical sensitivities to future climate changes may lie (McCarthy et al., 2001, ‘Climatic change 2001: Impact adaptation, and vulnerability’, from 3rd Assesment Report of IPCC). The reconstruction of regional climatic histories and investigations of the impacts of – and social response to – extreme droughts in history are thus of crucial significance if we are to understand and anticipate the potential repercussions of future events (Wigley, 1985, Nature 316, 106–107; Grove and Conterio, 1995, Clim. Change 30, 223).

Chihuahua, in the arid Northwest of Mexico, is one of the most seriously and frequently drought affected regions of the country (Garcia, 2000, available at Prolonged drought in the 1930s, 1950s and 1990s contributed to water scarcity, harvest failure, illness, livestock disease, abandonment and water conflict and served to highlight the particular vulnerability of agrarian society in this region to climatic variability (Sandoval, 2003, Ingeneria Hidraulica en Mexico 18(2), 133–155). Recent investigations using tree ring analysis have identified several phases of such prolonged drought over the last seven centuries. In this paper we use archival documents to investigate the impacts of such periods in late colonial Chihuahua and to explore how society in the region responded to and coped with them.


Tree Ring Future Climate Change Extreme Drought Extreme Climate Event Prolonged Drought 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science + Business Media, Inc. 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Georgina H. Endfield
    • 1
    Email author
  • Isabel Fern´ndez Tejedo
    • 1
  1. 1.School of GeographyUniversity of NottinghamNottinghamU.K.

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