The influence of soil dry-out on the record-breaking hot 2013/2014 summer in Southeast Brazil

Geirinhas J.L., Russo A.C., Libonati, R., Miralles D.G., Sousa P.M., Wouters H. and Trigo R.M.
Scientific Reports. 12, 5836. DOI: 10.1038/s41598-022-09515-z

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The 2013/2014 summer in Southeast Brazil was marked by historical unprecedented compound dry and hot (CDH) conditions with profound socio-economic impacts. The synoptic drivers for this event have already been analyzed, and its occurrence within the context of the increasing trend of CDH conditions in the area evaluated. However, so far, the causes for these record temperatures remain poorly understood. Here, a detailed characterization of the 2013/2014 austral summer season over Southeast Brazil is proposed, emphasizing the role played by land–atmosphere interactions in temperature escalation. We demonstrate that a strong soil moisture–temperature coupling regime promoted record-breaking temperatures levels exceeding almost 5 °C over the previous highest record, and played a key role in triggering an outstanding ‘mega-heatwave’ that lasted for a period of around 20 days. This pronounced soil desiccation occurred within a current climate change trend defined by drier and hotter conditions in the region. The soil dry-out, coupled with strong radiative processes and low entrainment of cooler air masses through mesoscale sea-breeze circulation processes, led to a water-limited regime and to an enhancement of sensible heat fluxes that, ultimately, resulted in a sharp increase of surface temperatures.