Complex network analysis helps to identify impacts of the El Nino Southern Oscillation on moisture divergence in South America

Niklas Boers*, Reik V. Donner, Bodo Bookhagen, Juergen Kurths

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

45 Citations (Scopus)


We investigate the temporal evolution of moisture divergence and its spatial clustering properties over South America. Our analysis focuses on dependencies on the phase of the El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO). Moisture divergence is computed from daily reanalysis data of vertically integrated moisture flux provided by Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications for the time period from 1979 to 2010. We use a sliding-window approach to construct a sequence of complex networks, each obtained from synchronization of events of strong positive (negative) moisture divergence, which we interpret as strong evapotranspiration (precipitation) events. We make the following three key observations: (1) Moisture divergence values over the Amazon rainforest are typically higher during positive ENSO periods (El Nino events). (2) The spatial coherence of strong positive (upwelling) events assumes a characteristic pattern of reduced coherence in this area during El Nino conditions. This influence of ENSO on moisture divergence and its spatial coherence is dominated by the El Nino events of 1982, 1987, and 1997. (3) The clustering characteristics of the obtained climate networks qualitatively agree with the spatial distribution of connected regions with simultaneous events (i.e., events that occur at the same time), but provide a more detailed view on the spatial organization of strong atmospheric upwelling events. Interestingly, no comparable results are found for negative extremes of moisture divergence (strong precipitation events).

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)619-632
Number of pages14
JournalClimate dynamics
Issue number3-4
Early online date2 Aug 2014
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2015

Bibliographical note

Acknowledgments This paper was developed within the scope of
the IRTG 1740/TRP 2011/50151-0, funded by the DFG/FAPESP.
R.V.D. has been financially supported by the German Federal Ministry of Science and Education via the Young Investigators Group CoSyCC2 (Grant No. 01LN1306A). J.K. has been supported by the Government of the Russian Federation (Agreement No. 14.Z50.31.0033).


  • Moisture divergence
  • Extreme events
  • South American climate
  • El Nino Southern Oscillation
  • Complex networks
  • Mesoscale convective complexes
  • Amazon deforestation
  • surface-temperature
  • climate network
  • Atacama Desert
  • precipitation
  • dynamics
  • ENSO


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