Precipitation response to El Niño/La Niña events in Southern South America – emphasis in regional drought occurrences
Abstract. The ENSO phenomenon is one of the key factors that influence the interannual variability of precipitation over Southern South America. The aim of this study is to identify the regional response of precipitation to El Niño/La Niña events, with emphasis in drought conditions. The standardized precipitation index (SPI) was used to characterize precipitation variabilities through the 1961–2008 period for time scales of 3 (SPI3) and 12 (SPI12) months. A regionalization based on rotated principal component analysis allowed to identify seven coherent regions for each of the time scales considered. In order to identify the regional influence of El Niño and La Niña events on the SPI time series, we calculated the mean SPI values for the El Niño and La Niña years and assessed its significance through bootstrap analysis. We found coherent and significant SPI responses to ENSO phases in most of the seven regions considered, mainly for the SPI12 time series. The precipitation response to La Niña events is characterized with regional deficits, identified with negative values of the SPI during the end of La Niña year and the year after. During El Niño events the precipitation response is reversed and more intense/consistent than in the case of La Niña events. This signal has some regional differences regarding its magnitude and timing, and the quantification of these features, together with the assessment of the SST composites during drought conditions provided critical baseline information for the agricultural and water resources sectors.