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

Niklas Boers, Reik V. Donner, Bodo Bookhagen, Jürgen Kurths

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48 Scopus citations


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 Niño 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 Niño events). (2) The spatial coherence of strong positive (upwelling) events assumes a characteristic pattern of reduced coherence in this area during El Niño conditions. This influence of ENSO on moisture divergence and its spatial coherence is dominated by the El Niño 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
StatePublished - 26 Aug 2015
Externally publishedYes


  • Complex networks
  • El Niño Southern Oscillation
  • Extreme events
  • Moisture divergence
  • South American climate


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