Regional hydroclimatic variability and Brazil's 2001 energy crisis
Purpose - This paper seeks to address the issue of persistent and widespread drought conditions during 2000 and 2001, which were the apparent cause of the decline of water levels in the reservoirs of Brazilian hydroelectric power plants. Design/methodology/approach - This issue is addressed here through a case study of the hydroclimatology of the Paraíba river basin, in Southeast Brazil, home to four large multi-purpose operational reservoirs. Findings - The data analysis shows that neither changes in the frequency nor magnitude of extreme hydrological events (droughts and floods) nor in annual rainfall amounts can be detected from the existing climate record. The explanation is consistent with the fact that the terrestrial water and energy cycles are tightly, and non-linearly, coupled through evapotranspiration. Research limitations/implications - Therefore small change in the seasonality of rainfall can have a significant impact on the basin's overall hydrologic regime, and thus on the availability of water resources. Originality/value - Often, adaptation and resilience to climate variability are discussed in the context of catastrophic events such as floods and droughts. This study suggests that a different type of impacts, those associated with subtle, yet persistent changes of seasonality in the terrestrial water cycle, cannot be ignored in studies of long-term sustainability of water resources. © Emerald Group Publishing Limited.
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