Documentary sources to investigate multidecadal variability of droughts

F. Dominguez-Castro, R. García-Herrera


Droughts are probably the natural hazard with the highest socioeconomic

impact. Simultaneously, they are a very complex phenomenon; they are triggered by a diversity of physical factors and occur at a variety of time scales. Consequently, the instrumental record currently available is too short and the characterization of its multidecadal variability requires the use of natural proxies (tree rings, sedimentary records) or documentary sources. In this paper we analyse three documentary sources with potential to analyse the long-term variability of droughts: chapter acts, logbooks and chronicles. The chapter acts recorded discussions and decisions made during the assemblies of the local authorities and provide continuous and direct evidence on drought impacts. They are especially useful to study droughts between the 15th and the 19th centuries in Europe and the 17th to 18th in the former colonies. Logbooks recorded the meteorological conditions and the incidents occurred during navigation. They provide indirect information through the circulation indices that can be very helpful to understand the mechanisms and teleconnections associated to droughts. Finally, the chronicles are historiographical documents describing political and social events. They are secondary sources and the references to climatic events are discontinuous, thus their analysis must be extremely careful, but they are especially useful to study specific drought events especially prior to 15th century when no other sources are available.


documentary sources; droughts; loogbooks; chapter acts; chronicles

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