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Extreme Water Deficit in Brazil Detected from SpaceExtreme droughts have caused significant socioeconomic and environmental damage worldwide. In Brazil, ineffective energy development and water management policies have magnified the impacts of recent severe droughts, which include massive agricultural losses, water supply restrictions, and energy rationing. Spaceborne remote sensing data advance our understanding of the spatiotemporal variability of large-scale droughts and enhance the detection and monitoring of extreme water-related events. In this study, data derived from the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) mission are used to detect and quantify an extended major drought over eastern Brazil and provide estimates of impacted areas and region-specific water deficits. Two structural breakpoint detection methods were applied to time series of GRACE-based terrestrial water storage anomalies (TWSA), determining when two abrupt changes occurred. One, in particular, defines the beginning of the current drought. Using TWSA, a water loss rate of 26.1 cmyr21 over southeastern Brazil was detected from 2012 to 2015. Based on analysis of Global Land Data Assimilation System(GLDAS) outputs, the extreme drought is mostly related to lower-than-usual precipitation rates, resulting in high soil moisture depletion and lower-than-usual rates of evapotranspiration. A reduction of 2023 of precipitation over an extended period of 3 years is enough to raise serious water scarcity conditions in the country. Correlations between monthly time series of both grid-based TWSA and ground-based water storage measurements at 16 reservoirs located within southeastern Brazil varied from 0.42 to 0.82. Differences are mainly explained by reservoir sizes and proximity to the drought nucleus.
Document ID
Document Type
Reprint (Version printed in journal)
External Source(s)
Vieira Getirana (Maryland Univ. College Park, MD, United States)
Date Acquired
June 6, 2017
Publication Date
January 27, 2016
Publication Information
Publication: Journal of Hydrometeorology
Volume: 17
Issue: 3
ISSN: 1525-755X
Subject Category
Earth Resources and Remote Sensing
Report/Patent Number
Funding Number(s)
Distribution Limits