Farmers’ first rain: investigating dry season rainfall characteristics in the Peruvian Andes

Klein, Cornelia ORCID:; Potter, Emily R.; Zauner, Cornelia; Gurgiser, Wolfgang; Cruz Encarnación, Rolando; Cochachín Rapre, Alejo; Maussion, Fabien. 2023 Farmers’ first rain: investigating dry season rainfall characteristics in the Peruvian Andes. Environmental Research Communications, 5 (7), 071004. 10, pp.

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In the Peruvian Andes, the first light rainfalls towards the end of the dry season in August-September are known as pushpa. Softening soils and improving sowing conditions, these rains are crucial for planting dates and agricultural planning. Yet pushpa remains to date unexplored in the literature. This study uses observations and convection-permitting model simulations to describe the characteristics of pushpa in the Rio Santa valley (Peru). Comparing an observed pushpa case in August 2018 with a dry and wet event of the same season, we find pushpa to coincide with upper-level westerly winds that are otherwise characteristic for dry periods. These conditions impose an upper-level dry layer that favours small-scale, vertically-capped convection, explaining the low rainfall intensities that are reportedly typical for pushpa. Climatologically, we find 83% of pushpa-type events to occur under westerly winds, dominating in August, when 60% of the modelled spatial rainfall extent is linked to pushpa. Larger, more intense deep-convective events gradually increase alongside more easterly winds in September, causing the relative pushpa cloud coverage to drop to ̃20%. We note high inter-annual and -decadal variability in this balance between pushpa and intense convective rainfall types, with the spatial extent of pushpa rainfall being twice as high during 2000-2009 than for the 2010-2018 decade over the key sowing period. This result may explain farmers' perception in the Rio Santa valley, who recently reported increased challenges due to delayed but more intense pushpa rains before the rainy season start. We thus conclude that the sowing and germination season is crucially affected by the balance of pushpa-type and deep-convective rain, resulting in a higher probability for late first rains to be more intense.

Item Type: Publication - Article
Digital Object Identifier (DOI):
UKCEH and CEH Sections/Science Areas: Hydro-climate Risks (Science Area 2017-)
ISSN: 2515-7620
Additional Information. Not used in RCUK Gateway to Research.: Open Access paper - full text available via Official URL link.
Additional Keywords: dry season rainfall, WRF, convection-permitting, tropical Andes, convective environment, agriculture
NORA Subject Terms: Meteorology and Climatology
Atmospheric Sciences
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Date made live: 15 Nov 2023 09:32 +0 (UTC)

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