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Local indices for the South American monsoon system and its impacts on Southeast Brazilian precipitation patterns

Abstract

The South American monsoon system (SAMS) plays a fundamental role in the precipitation regime of the most populous and economically important regions in Brazil. The South Atlantic Convergence Zone (SACZ) is a main component of the SAMS, characterizing its active phase, and is often associated with intense rainfall events: Strong and persistent episodes cause severe floods and landslides, while weak and sparse episodes are associated with droughts. The variability of the convergence zone caused great natural disasters in Southeast Brazil, associated with extreme precipitation conditions: 3562 landslides killed 947 people in Rio de Janeiro state in 2011, while a shortage of water in São Paulo affected around 20 million people between 2014 and 2015. In the present study, we build SACZ configuration series for the period between January 2000 and June 2014 and use them as indicators for the SAMS to quantify its influence on several atmospheric variables. Based on a principal component analysis, we present indices that identify the configuration of the SACZ in a local scale. The indices reached strong accuracy rates, especially for identifying days of extreme rainfall events associated with the SAMS and may, thus, serve as decision-making tools to help prepare for their impacts. Furthermore, the indices are composed by common variables simulated by numerical weather and climate models, other than precipitation, which is often a not very reliable output. The applied methodology is easily reproducible and different variables may be used to compose indices for different regions—an advantage of this local-scale approach.

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Acknowledgments

We are thankful to Raquel Brisson, Beatriz Malta and Ana Roland for their support, to Fundação Carlos Chagas Filho de Amparo à Pesquisa do Rio de Janeiro (FAPERJ) for providing financial aid and to the reviewers for their valuable contributions.

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Correspondence to David Marcolino Nielsen.

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Nielsen, D.M., Cataldi, M., Belém, A.L. et al. Local indices for the South American monsoon system and its impacts on Southeast Brazilian precipitation patterns. Nat Hazards 83, 909–928 (2016). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11069-016-2355-4

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Keywords

  • SAMS
  • SACZ
  • South Atlantic Convergence Zone
  • Intense rainfall
  • Monsoon index