, Volume 102, Issue 1-2, pp 13-27

Climatology of water excesses and shortages in the La Plata Basin

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Abstract

This study presents a multitemporal climatology of water excess and shortage during the 20th century in the La Plata Basin. The climatology is based on 0.5o × 0.5o grid across the region. We transform monthly precipitation series for each point into index series at different time scales using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). A month is under water excess (shortage) conditions at different time scales (i = 6, 9, 12, and 18 months), when SPI[i](j) > 1.5 (SPI[i](j) < 1.5), where j is the current month. Trends in precipitation were determined using mean regional series of average values over the entire basin. A month when more than 30% of the total basin is under water excesses (shortages) is defined as an excess (shortage) critical month. From the vulnerability point of view, we analyzed the occurrence of critical months. The number of excess critical months increase with time scale of index, and almost all the critical months occurred after 1950 as a consequence of the low-frequency precipitation pattern. That means a noticeable increase in the vulnerability to extended excesses (more than 30% of the area under water excesses) after 1950, especially over the Upper Paraná and the Uruguay basins. For shortage critical months, the behavior depends on time scales. At large time scale (18 and 12 months), almost all the shortage critical months occurred in the period 1901–1950 and only at shorter time scale (9 and 6 months), some critical months appeared after 1950. That means a noteworthy decrease in the basin vulnerability to extended water shortage after 1950 and a moderate decrease in vulnerability to generalized shortage. If we analyze the frequency and mean duration of water excess and shortage events across the basin, we can appreciate that there is a tendency to relate higher frequency regions with regions with lower mean duration events, and conversely.