Climate Fact: Weather and Climate Trends in Brazil

Brazil is the host country of the 2014 FIFA World Cup. As thousands of tourists are arriving and the country is preparing for one of the world’s major sporting events, drought is affecting Brazil’s water availability and electricity generation in the Northeast and Southeast regions. Here, learn more about the weather and climate trends and impacts scientists are documenting in the largest South American country.

From 1960-2010, the northern, southern and eastern regions of Brazil experienced warming temperatures in both summer (December to February) and winter (June to August). Brazil has experienced an overall increase in the frequency of warm winters and a decrease in frequency of cold winters. From 1960-2003, the frequency of warm nights increased and the frequency of cool nights decreased for the Southern region of Brazil, the only region with sufficient daily temperature data to conduct this analysis. The Southeastern region of Brazil has experienced an increase in total rainfall, which comes in the form of extreme precipitation (episodes of rainfall of five days or more).

The main climatic threats for Brazil are floods, droughts and associated wildfires, and occasional cold spells. Dr. Jose Marengo, Senior Scientist at the Earth System Science Center (CCST) at the Brazilian National Institute for Space Research, shared his expertise on climate change and severe weather in Brazil. In a recent interview, Dr. Marengo stated that “although severe weather events such as drought and floods have happened in the past, their frequency and intensity has increased. Between 2005 and 2013, the Amazon experienced two very extreme droughts and three extreme floods, the frequency of which is unusual.” Additional flooding is occurring in the western Amazon in 2014.

The drought of 2005 increased associated wildfires by 200 percent. Drought is currently affecting cities in the Southeast, such as São Paulo and Minas Gerais, where tourists will be visiting for the 2014 FIFA World Cup. Dr. Marengo noted that the current southeastern drought, which started in November 2013, is affecting electricity generation in the region. Brazil is the third-largest electricity consumer in the Americas and generates 80 percent of its electricity via hydropower; therefore drought has resulted in energy shortages. Water shortages due to drought have also severely impacted isolated communities that rely on rivers for transportation (no highways) and the government has had to deploy helicopters to deliver food.

Image: Rainforest in drought. IPAM via UCAR/COMET.

(Source: Marengo, J. (2014, June 5). Telephone Interview. and MetOffice. Climate: Observations, Projections and Impacts. Brazil. Accessed online 30 May 2014. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/media/pdf/2/c/Brazil.pdf and U.S. Library of Congress. Climate: Brazil. Accessed online 4 June 2014. http://countrystudies.us/brazil/23.htm and MetOffice. Climate: Brazil. Accessed online 4 June 2014. http://www.metoffice.gov.uk/weather/world-climate/south-america/brazil and Fundação Brasileira para o Desenvolvimiento Sustentável. Climate Change and Extreme Events in Brazil. Accessed online 30 May 2014. http://www.lloyds.com/~/media/lloyds/reports/360/360%20climate%20reports/fbdsreportonbrazilclimatechangeenglish.pdf and U.S. Energy Information Administration. Brazil. Accessed online 3 June 2014. http://www.eia.gov/countries/cab.cfm?fips=BR)

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