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AbstractVulnerability assessments have become necessary to increase the understanding of climate-sensitive systems and inform resource allocation in developing countries. Challenges arise when poor economic and social development combines with heterogeneous climatic conditions. Thus, finding and harmonizing good-quality data at local scale may be a significant hurdle for vulnerability research. In this paper we assess vulnerability to climate change at a local level in Ecuador. We take Ecuador as a case study as socioeconomic data are readily available. To incorporate the spatial and temporal pattern of the climatic variables we use reanalysis datasets and empirical orthogonal functions. Our assessment strategy relies on the statistical behavior of climatic and socioeconomic indicators for the weighting and aggregation mechanism into a composite vulnerability indicator. Rather than assuming equal contribution to the formation of the composite indicator, we assume that the weights of the indicators vary inversely as the variance over the cantons (administrative division of Ecuador). This approach captures the multi-dimensionality of vulnerability in a comprehensive form. We find that the least vulnerable cantons concentrate around Ecuador’s largest cities (e.g. Quito and Guayaquil); however, approximately 20 % of the national population lives in other cantons that are categorized as highly and very highly vulnerable to climate change. Results also show that the main determinants of high vulnerability are the lack of land tenure in agricultural areas and the nonexistence of government-funded programs directed to environmental and climate change management.