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Precipitation diagnostics of an exceptionally dry event in São Paulo, Brazil


The State of São Paulo in Brazil experienced in 2014 and early 2015 an expressive precipitation deficit, leading to drought conditions with impacts in water availability for public consumption, hydropower generation, and agriculture, particularly during austral summer. This study performs a detailed diagnostics of the observed precipitation during 2014 and early 2015 over a particular region of São Paulo State, which includes the massively populated metropolitan region of São Paulo. The diagnostic was designed to provide answers to a number of relevant questions for the activities, decisions, and strategic planning of several sectors (e.g., general public, media, and high-level governments). Examples of questions such diagnostics can help answer are: How much precipitation has the region received? Has the region experienced drought conditions in the past? When have similar drought conditions been observed in the past? What has been the observed precipitation pattern in the last years? How severe/rare were the 2014 and 2015 droughts? When does the rainy season typically start/end in the region? What happened during the 2013/2014 and 2014/2015 rainy seasons? The performed diagnostics based on historical 1961/1962–2014/2015 records revealed that the 2013/2014 austral summer was a very rare event classified as exceptionally dry. Similar drought events were previously recorded but with smaller magnitude in terms of precipitation deficits, making the 2013/2014 drought event the driest on the examined record. In fact, the region has been experiencing a precipitation deficit pattern since 1999/2000. One of the contributing factors for the expressive precipitation deficit in 2014 was the abnormally early end of the 2013/2014 rainy season in the region.

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The research leading to these results has received funding from the SPECS project (grant agreement no. 308378) funded by the European Commission’s Seventh Framework Research Programme. CASC was supported by Conselho Nacional de Desenvolvimento Científico e Tecnológico (CNPq) process 306863/2013-8. The Brazilian National Meteorological Service (INMET), CPTEC/INPE, and the regional meteorological centers in Brazil are acknowledged for making their precipitation data records available for the research performed in this study. We thank the comments, suggestions, and constructive criticism of three anonymous reviewers that helped improve substantially the quality of this paper.

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Correspondence to Caio A. S. Coelho.

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Coelho, C.A.S., Cardoso, D.H.F. & Firpo, M.A.F. Precipitation diagnostics of an exceptionally dry event in São Paulo, Brazil. Theor Appl Climatol 125, 769–784 (2016).

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  • Rainy Season
  • Standardize Precipitation Index
  • Precipitation Amount
  • Drought Event
  • Precipitation Anomaly