Articles | Volume 15, issue 3
Research article
13 Mar 2015
Research article |  | 13 Mar 2015

Assessing drought cycles in SPI time series using a Fourier analysis

E. E. Moreira, D. S. Martins, and L. S. Pereira

Abstract. In this study, drought in Portugal was assessed using 74 time series of Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) with a 12-month timescale and 66 years length. A clustering analysis on the SPI Principal Components loadings was performed in order to find regions where SPI drought characteristics are similar. A Fourier analysis was then applied to the SPI time series considering one SPI value per year relative to every month. The analysis focused on the December SPI time series grouped in each of the three identified clusters to investigate the existence of cycles that could be related to the return periods of droughts. The most frequent significant cycles in each of the three clusters were identified and analysed for December and the other months. Results for December show that drought periodicities vary among the three clusters, pointing to a 6-year cycle across the country and a 9.4-year cycle in central and southern Portugal. Both these cycles likely show the influence of the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) on the occurrence and severity of droughts in Portugal. Relative to other months it was observed that cycles varied according to the common occurrence of precipitation: for the rainy months – November, December and January – cycles are similar to those for December; for the dry months – May to September – where the lack of precipitation masks the occurrence of drought, the dominant cycles are of short duration and cannot be related to the NAO or other large circulation indices to explain drought variability; for the transition months – February, March, April and October – 6-year and 3-year cycles were identified, the latter being more strongly apparent in central and southern Portugal. NAO influence is again identified relative to the 6-year cycles. The short cycles are apparently associated with positive SPI, thus with wetness, not drought. Overall, results confirm the importance of the NAO as a driving force for dry and wet periods.

Final-revised paper