Drought in Northeast Brazil—past, present, and future

Abstract

This study provides an overview of the drought situation in Northeast Brazil for the past, present, and future. Droughts affect more people than any other natural hazard owing to their large scale and long-lasting nature. They are recurrent in the region and while some measures have been taken by the governments to mitigate their impacts, there is still a perception that residents, mainly in rural areas, are not yet adapted to these hazards. The drought affecting the Northeast from 2012 to 2015, however, has had an intensity and impact not seen in several decades and has already destroyed large swaths of cropland, affecting hundreds of cities and towns across the region, and leaving ranchers struggling to feed and water cattle. Future climate projections for the area show large temperature increases and rainfall reductions, which, together with a tendency for longer periods with consecutive dry days, suggest the occurrence of more frequent/intense dry spells and droughts and a tendency toward aridification in the region. All these conditions lead to an increase in evaporation from reservoirs and lakes, affecting irrigation and agriculture as well as key water uses including hydropower and industry, and thus, the welfare of the residents. Integrating drought monitoring and seasonal forecasting provides efficient means of assessing impacts of climate variability and change, identifying vulnerabilities, and allowing for better adaptation measures not only for medium- and long-term climate change but also for extremes of the interannual climate variability, particularly droughts.

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Acknowledgments

The research leading to these results has received funding from the Rede-CLIMA, the National Institute of Science and Technology for Climate Change INCT-MC funded by CNPq Grant Number 573797/2008-0, FAPESP Grant 2008/57719-9, and the CNPq-PRIMO project. Additional funding was provided by the Minas Gerais State Research Foundation—FAPEMIG (APQ-01088-14).

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Correspondence to Jose A. Marengo.

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Marengo, J.A., Torres, R.R. & Alves, L.M. Drought in Northeast Brazil—past, present, and future. Theor Appl Climatol 129, 1189–1200 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1007/s00704-016-1840-8

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Keywords

  • Austral Summer
  • Semiarid Region
  • Climate Change Projection
  • Interannual Climate Variability
  • Rainfall Reduction