Time-space characterization of droughts in the São Francisco river catchment using the Standard Precipitation Index and continuous wavelet transform

ABSTRACT This paper focuses on time-space characterization of drought conditions in the São Francisco River catchment, on the basis of wavelet analysis of Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) time series. In order to improve SPI estimation, the procedures for regional analysis with L-moments were employed for defining statistically homogeneous regions. The continuous wavelet transform was then utilized for extracting time-frequency information from the resulting SPI time series in a multiresolution framework and for investigating possible teleconnections of these signals with those obtained from samples of the large-scale climate indexes ENSO and PDO. The use of regional frequency analysis with L-moments resulted in improvements in the estimation of SPI time series. It was observed that by aggregating regional information more reliable estimates of low frequency rainfall amounts were obtained. The wavelet analysis of climate indexes suggests that the more extreme dry periods in the study area are observed when the cold phase of both ENSO and the PDO coincides. While not constituting a strict cause effect relationship, it was clear that the more extreme droughts are consistently observed in this situation. However, further investigation is necessary for identifying particularities in rainfall patterns that are not associated to large-scale climate anomalies.