Articles | Volume 30
09 May 2011
 | 09 May 2011

Local patterns and trends of the Standard Precipitation Index in southern Portugal (1940–1999)

A. C. Costa

Abstract. This paper analyzes the yearly changes in precipitation from 1940 to 1999 on local and regional scales over the southern region of continental Portugal, which has large areas threatened by desertification. The Standard Precipitation Index (SPI) time series with the 12-month time scale is calculated for 43 meteorological stations. A geostatistical approach is used to evaluate the temporal dynamics of the spatial patterns of precipitation. The spatial homogeneity of the SPI is evaluated for each decade. Afterwards, a geostatistical simulation algorithm (direct sequential simulation) is used to produce 100 equiprobable maps of the SPI for each year. This gridded data set (6000 maps with 800 m × 800 m grid cells) is then used to produce yearly scenarios of the SPI from 1940 to 1999, and uncertainty evaluations of the produced scenarios. The linear trend of SPI values over the sixty years period is calculated at each grid cell of the scenarios' maps using a nonparametric estimator. Wilcoxon-Mann-Whitney one-sided tests are used to compare the local median of the SPI in 1940/1969 with its median in 1970/1999. Results show that moderate drought conditions occur frequently over the study region, except in the northwest coast. Severe drought frequency patterns are found in areas of the centre and southeast regions. A significant trend towards drying occurs in the centre region and in the northeast. Considering the amount of water consumption and irrigation already required in some municipalities, water shortage due to drought is a viable threat in most of the Alentejo region if those local trends persist.