Climatic consequences of gradual desertification in the semi-arid area of Northeast Brazil


Theoretical and Applied Climatology

March 2011, Volume 103, Issue 3–4, pp 345–357 – First Online: 24 June 2010

  • Dayana Castilho de Souza 1
  • Marcos Daisuke Oyama 2
  1. Centro de Previsão de Tempo e Estudos Climáticos, Instituto de Pesquisas Espaciais, Cachoeira Paulista, Brazil
  2. Divisão de Ciências Atmosféricas, Instituto de Aeronáutica e Espaço, São José dos Campos, Brazil


The climatic impacts of gradual desertification in the semi-arid area of Northeast Brazil (SANEB) were evaluated using the MM5 regional model. Simulations for the rainy season of SANEB (March, April, and May) were performed. Desertification simulations were grouped into three numerical runs: total (all SANEB covered by desert), partial (desert areas placement based on future environmental degradation scenarios for SANEB), and random desertification (desert areas placed randomly within SANEB). Total desertification led to a pronounced and significant precipitation reduction in large parts of SANEB. Climatic impacts of partial desertification were guided by the southward expansion of desert areas. For intermediate desertification extensions, a dipole pattern with precipitation reduction (increase) in the northern (southern) areas of SANEB was found. Random desertification led to climatic impacts spread over the whole SANEB. In both partial and random desertification, a quasi-linear precipitation reduction was found as desertification extension increases.

Author: Willem Van Cotthem

Honorary Professor of Botany, University of Ghent (Belgium). Scientific Consultant for Desertification and Sustainable Development.