Interannual climate variability in South America: impacts on seasonal precipitation, extreme events, and possible effects of climate change

Original Paper

DOI: 10.1007/s00477-010-0420-1

Cite this article as:
Grimm, A.M. Stoch Environ Res Risk Assess (2011) 25: 537. doi:10.1007/s00477-010-0420-1


Interannual variability is an important modulator of synoptic and intraseasonal variability in South America. This paper seeks to characterize the main modes of interannual variability of seasonal precipitation and some associated mechanisms. The impact of this variability on the frequency of extreme rainfall events and the possible effect of anthropogenic climate change on this variability are reviewed. The interannual oscillations of the annual total precipitation are mainly due to the variability in austral autumn and summer. While autumn is the dominant rainy season in the northern part of the continent, where the variability is highest (especially in the northeastern part), summer is the rainy season over most of the continent, thanks to a summer monsoon regime. In the monsoon season, the strongest variability occurs near the South Atlantic Convergence Zone (SACZ), which is one of the most important features of the South American monsoon system. In all seasons but summer, the most important source of variability is ENSO (El Niño Southern Oscillation), although ENSO shows a great contribution also in summer. The ENSO impact on the frequency of extreme precipitation events is also important in all seasons, being generally even more significant than the influence on seasonal rainfall totals. Climate change associated with increasing emission of greenhouse gases shows potential to impact seasonal amounts of precipitation in South America, but there is still great uncertainty associated with the projected changes, since there is not much agreement among the models’ outputs for most regions in the continent, with the exception of southeastern South America and southern Andes. Climate change can also impact the natural variability modes of seasonal precipitation associated with ENSO.


Climate variability Climate change Precipitation Extreme events South America 

Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhysicsFederal University of ParanáCuritibaBrazil