Temporal evolution of the spatial covariability of rainfall in South America

Catrin Ciemer*, Niklas Boers, Henrique M. J. Barbosa, Jurgen Kurths, Anja Rammig

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


The climate of South America exhibits pronounced differences between rainy and dry seasons, associated with specific synoptic features such as the establishment of the South Atlantic convergence zone. Here, we analyze the spatiotemporal correlation structure and in particular teleconnections of daily rainfall associated with these features by means of evolving complex networks. A modification of Pearson's correlation coefficient is introduced to handle the intricate statistical properties of daily rainfall. On this basis, spatial correlation networks are constructed, and new appropriate network measures are introduced in order to analyze the temporal evolution of the networks' characteristics. We particularly focus on the identification of coherent areas of similar rainfall patterns and previously unknown teleconnection structures between remote areas. We show that the monsoon onset is characterized by an abrupt transition from erratic to organized regional connectivity that prevails during the monsoon season, while only the onset times themselves exhibit anomalous large-scale organization of teleconnections. Furthermore, we reveal that the two mega-droughts in the Amazon basin were already announced in the previous year by an anomalous behavior of the connectivity structure.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)371-382
Number of pages12
JournalClimate dynamics
Issue number1-2
Early online date6 Oct 2017
Publication statusPublished - 31 Jul 2018

Bibliographical note

The authors thank Tim Kittel, Jose A. Marengo and Finn Müller-Hansen for helpful discussions. This paper was developed within the scope of the IRTG 1740/TRP 2011/50151-0, funded by the DFG/FAPESP. NB acknowledges funding by the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation and the German Federal Ministry for Education and Research. H.M.J.B. acknowledges the financial support from FAPESP project 2013/50510-5 and CNPq fellowship 312131/2014-3. The authors gratefully acknowledge the European Regional Development Fund (ERDF), the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research and the Land Brandenburg for supporting this project by providing resources on the high performance computer system at the Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact Research.


  • South American monsoon
  • Complex networks
  • Rainfall
  • Teleconnections
  • Correlation measures


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