Tracking the moisture transport from the Pacific towards Central and northern South America since the late 19th century
In this paper, we develop an instrumental index based on historical wind direction observations aimed to quantify the moisture transport from the tropical Pacific to Central and northern South America at a monthly scale. This transport is mainly driven by the so-called “Chocó jet”, a low-level westerly jet whose core is located at 5∘ N and 80∘ W. The Chocó jet is profoundly related to the dynamics of the Intertropical Convergence Zone in the eastern equatorial Pacific and it is responsible for up to 30 % of the total precipitation in these areas. We have been able to produce an index for this transport starting in the 19th century, adding almost a century of data to previous comparable indices. Our results indicate that the seasonal distribution of the precipitation in Central America has changed throughout the 20th century as a response to the changes in the Chocó jet, decreasing (increasing) its strength in July (September). Additionally, we have found that in general, the relationship between the Chocó jet and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation has been remarkably stable throughout the entire 20th century, a finding particularly significant because the stability of this relation is usually the basis of the hydrologic reconstructions in northern South America.