Skip to main content

Temporal evolution of the spatial covariability of rainfall in South America


The climate of South America exhibits pronounced differences between rainy and dry seasons, associated with specific synoptic features such as the establishment of the South Atlantic convergence zone. Here, we analyze the spatiotemporal correlation structure and in particular teleconnections of daily rainfall associated with these features by means of evolving complex networks. A modification of Pearson’s correlation coefficient is introduced to handle the intricate statistical properties of daily rainfall. On this basis, spatial correlation networks are constructed, and new appropriate network measures are introduced in order to analyze the temporal evolution of the networks’ characteristics. We particularly focus on the identification of coherent areas of similar rainfall patterns and previously unknown teleconnection structures between remote areas. We show that the monsoon onset is characterized by an abrupt transition from erratic to organized regional connectivity that prevails during the monsoon season, while only the onset times themselves exhibit anomalous large-scale organization of teleconnections. Furthermore, we reveal that the two mega-droughts in the Amazon basin were already announced in the previous year by an anomalous behavior of the connectivity structure.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6


  • Arraut JM, Nobre C, Barbosa HM, Obregon G, Marengo J (2012) Aerial rivers and lakes: looking at large-scale moisture transport and its relation to amazonia and to subtropical rainfall in South America. J Clim 25(2):543–556

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boers N, Bookhagen B, Marwan N, Kurths J, Marengo J (2013) Complex networks identify spatial patterns of extreme rainfall events of the South American monsoon system. Geophys Res Lett 40(16):4386–4392

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boers N, Bookhagen B, Barbosa H, Marwan N, Kurths J, Marengo J (2014) Prediction of extreme floods in the eastern central Andes based on a complex networks approach. Nat Commun 5:5199

  • Boers N, Donner RV, Bookhagen B, Kurths J (2015a) Complex network analysis helps to identify impacts of the El Niño southern oscillation on moisture divergence in South America. Clim Dyn 45(3–4):619–632

  • Boers N, Bookhagen B, Marengo J, Marwan N, von Storch JS, Kurths J (2015b) Extreme rainfall of the South American monsoon system: a dataset comparison using complex networks. J Clim 28(3):1031–1056

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Boers N, Bookhagen B, Marwan N, Kurths J (2016) Spatiotemporal characteristics and synchronization of extreme rainfall in South America with focus on the Andes mountain range. Clim Dyn 46(1–2):601–617

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Bookhagen B, Strecker MR (2008) Orographic barriers, high-resolution TRMM rainfall, and relief variations along the eastern Andes. Geophys Res Lett 35(6):L06403

  • Carvalho LMV, Silva AE, Jones C, Liebmann B, Dias PLS, Rocha HR (2011) Moisture transport and intraseasonal variability in the South America monsoon system. Clim Dyn 36(9–10):1865–1880

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Carvalho LMV (2016) The monsoons and climate change. In: The monsoons and climate change. Springer, Cham, pp 1–6

  • Donges JF, Zou Y, Marwan N, Kurths J (2009) Complex networks in climate dynamics. Eur Phys J Spec Topic 174(1):157–179

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hlinka J, Hartman D, Jajcay N, Vejmelka M, Donner R, Marwan N, Kurths J, Paluš M (2014) Regional and inter-regional effects in evolving climate networks. Nonlinear Process Geophys 21(2):451–462

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Huffman GJ, Bolvin DT, Nelkin EJ, Wolff DB, Adler RF, Gu G, Hong Y, Bowman KP, Stocker EF (2007) The TRMM multisatellite precipitation analysis (tmpa): Quasi-global, multiyear, combined-sensor precipitation estimates at fine scales. J Hydrometeorol 8(1):38–55

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Lewis SL, Brando PM, Phillips OL, van der Heijden GM, Nepstad D (2011) The 2010 amazon drought. Science 331(6017):554–554

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Liebmann B, Mechoso C (2011) The South America moonson system. In: The global monsoon system: research and forecast, 2nd edn. World Scientific Publishing Co, Singapore, pp 421–454

  • Liebmann B, Jones C, de Carvalho LM (2001) Interannual variability of daily extreme precipitation events in the state of Sao Paulo, Brazil. J Clim 14(2):208–218

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Malik N, Bookhagen B, Marwan N, Kurths J (2012) Analysis of spatial and temporal extreme monsoonal rainfall over South Asia using complex networks. Clim Dyn 39(3–4):971–987

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Liebmann B, Grimm A, Misra V, Silva Dias P, Cavalcanti I, Carvalho L, Berbery E, Ambrizzi T, Vera C et al (2012) Recent developments on the South American monsoon system. Int J Climatol 32(1):1–21

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Soares WR, Saulo C, Nicolini M (2004) Climatology of the low-level jet east of the Andes as derived from the NCEP–NCAR reanalyses: characteristics and temporal variability. J Clim 17(12):2261–2280

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Nobre CA, Tomasella J, Oyama MD, Sampaio de Oliveira G, De Oliveira R, Camargo H, Alves LM, Brown IF (2008) The drought of amazonia in 2005. J Clim 21(3):495–516

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marengo JA, Tomasella J, Alves LM, Soares WR, Rodriguez DA (2011) The drought of 2010 in the context of historical droughts in the Amazon region. Geophys Res Lett 38(12):L12703

  • Newman ME (2003) The structure and function of complex networks. SIAM Rev 45(2):167–256

  • Nieto-Ferreira R, Rickenbach TM, Wright EA (2011) The role of cold fronts in the onset of the monsoon season in the South Atlantic convergence zone. Q J R Meteorol Soc 137(657):908–922

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Quiroga RQ, Kraskov A, Kreuz T, Grassberger P (2002) Performance of different synchronization measures in real data: a case study on electroencephalographic signals. Phys Rev E 65(4):041903

  • Radebach A, Donner RV, Runge J, Donges JF, Kurths J (2013) Disentangling different types of El Niño episodes by evolving climate network analysis. Phys Rev E 88(5):052807

  • Rheinwalt A, Boers N, Marwan N, Kurths J, Hoffmann P, Gerstengarbe FW, Werner P (2015) Non-linear time series analysis of precipitation events using regional climate networks for Germany. Clim Dyn 46(3–4):1065–1074

  • Rickenbach TM, Ferreira RN, Halverson JB, Herdies DL, Silva Dias MA (2002) Modulation of convection in the Southwestern Amazon basin by extratropical stationary fronts. J Geophys Res 107:8040

  • Salio P, Nicolini M, Zipser EJ (2007) Mesoscale convective systems over southeastern South America and their relationship with the South American low-level jet. Mon Weather Rev 135(4):1290–1309

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Siqueira JR, Toledo Machado LA (2004) Influence of the frontal systems on the day-to-day convection variability over South America. J Clim 17(9):1754–1766

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Tsonis AA, Swanson KL, Roebber PJ (2006) What do networks have to do with climate? Bull Am Meteorol Soc 87(5):585

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Yamasaki K, Gozolchiani A, Havlin S (2008) Climate networks around the globe are significantly affected by El Nino. Phys Rev Lett 100(22):228501

  • Yoon JH, Zeng N (2010) An Atlantic influence on Amazon rainfall. Clim Dyn 34(2–3):249–264

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zhou D, Gozolchiani A, Ashkenazy Y, Havlin S (2015) Teleconnection paths via climate network direct link detection. Phys Rev Lett 115(26):268501

  • Zhou J, Lau K (1998) Does a monsoon climate exist over South America. J Clim 11(5):1020–1040

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Zipser EJ, Liu C, Cecil DJ, Nesbitt SW, Yorty DP (2006) Where are the most intense thunderstorms on earth? Bull Am Meteorol Soc 87(8):1057–1071

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors thank Tim Kittel, Jose A. Marengo and Finn Müller-Hansen for helpful discussions. This paper was developed within the scope of the IRTG 1740/TRP 2011/50151-0, funded by the DFG/FAPESP. NB acknowledges funding by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. H.M.J.B. acknowledges the financial support from FAPESP project 2013/50510-5 and CNPq fellowship 312131/2014-3. The authors gratefully acknowledge the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Land Brandenburg for supporting this project by providing resources on the high performance computer system at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Catrin Ciemer.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Ciemer, C., Boers, N., Barbosa, H.M.J. et al. Temporal evolution of the spatial covariability of rainfall in South America. Clim Dyn 51, 371–382 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • South American monsoon
  • Complex networks
  • Rainfall
  • Teleconnections
  • Correlation measures