Drought is a natural hazard with critical societal and economic consequences to millions of people around the world. In this paper, we present the climatology of severe drought events that occurred during the 20th century in the region of Sao Paulo, Brazil. To account for the effects of rainfall deficit and changes in temperature at a climatic timescale, we chose the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) to identify severe droughts over the city of Sao Paulo, and the eastern and central-western regions of the state. Events were identified using weather station data and European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecast (ECMWF) reanalysis data, in order to assess the representation of drought periods in both datasets. Results show that the reanalysis seems suitable to represent the number of events and their mean duration, severity and intensity, but the timing and characteristics of individual events are not well reproduced. The correlation between observation and reanalysis SPEI time series is low to moderate in all cases. A linear trend analysis between 1901 and 2010 shows a tendency of increasing (decreasing) severe drought events in the central and western (eastern) Sao Paulo state, according to observational data. This is in agreement with previous findings, and the reanalysis presents this same signal. The weakened trend values in the reanalysis may be associated with issues in representing precipitation in this dataset.
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