With a population of 127 million and a land mass about a fifth the size of the United States, Mexico has a large spectrum of climates and landscapes, ranging from mountains to coastal regions and from deserts to glaciers. Because of these variations, it is important for communities to understand precipitation patterns to plan appropriately for weather events and water resources management.
A team led by Ricardo Sánchez-Murillo, associate professor of earth and environmental sciences at The University of Texas at Arlington, has created a new isotope database that includes 608 monthly rain samples (spanning 2018-22) from 21 monitoring stations across the country. The results of his work are published open access in the journal PLOS Water. Co-authors are from the Mexican Institute of Water Technology in Mexico City; the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna, Austria; and the Universidad de Vigo in Ourense, Spain.
For decades, most studies have relied on data archives from two stations in the Global Network of Isotopes in Precipitation that operated in Mexico from 1962-88. One station was in the city of Chihuahua (northern arid region); a second was in the city of Veracruz (southeastern wet region). This represents a relatively low number of monitoring stations for such a large and heterogeneous country, with abundant rain in the south and scarce precipitation in the north. Mexico has rain forests, vast deserts, tropical and mid-latitude climates, an enormous plateau bounded by two mountain ranges where ice caps are still present, and coastlines facing the Pacific Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Gulf of California and Caribbean Sea, Sánchez-Murillo said.
Similarly, Mexico is affected by multiple climatic features, such as the influence of cold fronts, atmospheric rivers, easterly waves, tropical cyclones and northerly trade winds. All these topographic, geographic and weather characteristics are represented in a large spectrum of climatic regions across Mexico, he said.
The authors report on the spatial and temporal isotope variations of 21 precipitation monitoring stations across different physiographic units of Mexico. These stations are part of the National Network of Isotopes in Precipitation operated by the Department of Hydrology of the Mexican Institute of Water Technology.
“Our results fill a recognized historical gap in the precipitation isotope monitoring in North America” Sánchez-Murillo said. “This will provide a baseline for other researchers to pursue more detailed ecohydrological, climatic, forensic, archeological and paleoclimate studies across Mexico.”
Method of Research
Subject of Research
Tracing isotope precipitation patterns across Mexico
Article Publication Date
Funding: The National Monitoring Network of Isotopes in Precipitation (known as RENIP) across Mexico is the result of technical cooperation with the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) through the Regional Project ‘Integration of Isotope Hydrology in National Assessments of Water Resources’ (Project Number RLA/7/024 to LGH). The authors acknowledge the support from the STARs Program (Project Number AR911486 to RSM), the Office of the Provost funds at the University of Texas-Arlington (Project Number 314075 to RSM), and the NASEM Gulf Research Program Early Career Fellowship (Project Number 12668055350 to RSM). The Xunta of Galicia supported MS under postdoctoral grant number ED481B-2021/134. EphysLab, Uvigo, received support from the Xunta de Galicia under project number ED431C 2021/44 to LG and RN (Programa de Consolidación e Estructuración de Unidades de Investigación Competitivas (Grupos de Referencia Competitiva and Consellería de Cultura, Educación e Universidade). The authors also recognized the crucial partnership between the National Meteorological Service and the Mexico City Water System. The authors thank the multiple helping hands that contribute to precipitation sampling across Mexico. The funders had no role in study design, data collection and analysis, decision to publish, or preparation of the manuscript. The authors have declared that no competing interests exist.