Articles | Volume 11, issue 8
Research article
12 Aug 2011
Research article |  | 12 Aug 2011

Relationships between precipitation and floods in the fluvial basins of Central Spain based on documentary sources from the end of the 16th century

T. Bullón

Abstract. This study presents the results of a historic reconstruction based upon documentary sources of precipitation and floods during the last fifty years of the 16th century in Central Spain. We used data from primary sources contemporary to the events rather than compilations or secondary references. These documents belong to the institutions that administered the study area during the time period of interest and consist of municipal or monastic minute books and administrative texts from properties belonging to the nobility and royal family. Direct data that explicitly describe meteorological or flood-related events are haphazardly distributed throughout personal correspondence and various reports, and the sizes of floods or precipitation events can also be deduced from indirect data. We analysed the qualitative data by transforming them into numerical indices of intensity/duration for precipitation and intensity/area for floods. We differentiated three sets of years that presented different hydrological patterns. The first period, from 1554 to 1575, exhibited regular precipitation patterns associated with low-intensity floods. The second, from 1576 to 1584, was characterised by low precipitation levels and few floods. The third, from 1585 to 1599, showed intense precipitation with large floods interspersed with long-lasting droughts. We interpret these results in the context of the environmental and land-use patterns of the time period studied, which coincided with a period of low temperatures.