Spatial–temporal dynamics of precipitation extremes in southern Portugal: a geostatistical assessment study

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Abstract

Most of the recent studies and projections of precipitation patterns, based on records observed in the past and climate change scenarios for the Mediterranean basin, suggest a relatively slow decrease in rainfall amounts over the years but an increase in the frequency of extreme precipitation events. These are key factors in desertification processes and these will cause social and environmental impacts in the short term, mainly because changes in heavy rainfall events may have severe implications and impacts on soil erosion, resulting in increased risk of soil degradation.

The main objective of the present work is to evaluate the spatial–temporal dynamics of extreme precipitation events in southern Portugal, using a direct sequential simulation algorithm (DSS models) in order to assess the relationships between spatial and temporal extreme rainfall patterns. Local probability density functions (pdfs) and spatial uncertainty are evaluated by a set of equiprobable simulated images of the chosen extreme precipitation indices.

The used dataset in this work comprises a set of 105 station records of observed daily precipitation within the period 1961–2000. Two indices of extreme precipitation were selected: one representing the frequency of extremely heavy precipitation events (R30) and another characterizing the occurrence of dry events (RL10), both obtained from observed daily precipitation series.

Results show that the spatial continuity of extreme precipitation events has increased in the last 40 years in southern Portugal. It also demonstrates a decrease in spatial variability, implying that extreme precipitation events tend to be more spatially homogeneous, which may have a severe impact on water resources, agriculture and soil erosion, particularly when associated with desertification risks. Copyright © 2009 Royal Meteorological Society

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