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Contribution of precipitation and reference evapotranspiration to drought indices under different climates

AuthorsVicente Serrano, Sergio M. CSIC ORCID ; Schrier, G. van der; Beguería, Santiago CSIC ORCID ; Azorín-Molina, César CSIC ORCID; López-Moreno, Juan I. CSIC ORCID
KeywordsGlobal warming
Standardized Palmer Drought Index
Reconnaissance Drought Index
Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index
Palmer Drought Severity Index
Issue Date2015
CitationVicente-Serrano SM, Beguería S, Azorín-Molina C, López-Moreno JI. Contribution of precipitation and reference evapotranspiration to drought indices under different climates. Journal of Hydrology 526: 42-54 (2015)
AbstractIn this study we analyzed the sensitivity of four drought indices to precipitation (P) and reference evapotranspiration (ETo) inputs. The four drought indices are the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), the Reconnaissance Drought Index (RDI), the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and the Standardized Palmer Drought Index (SPDI). The analysis uses long-term simulated series with varying averages and variances, as well as global observational data to assess the sensitivity to real climatic conditions in different regions of the World. The results show differences in the sensitivity to ETo and P among the four drought indices. The PDSI shows the lowest sensitivity to variation in their climate inputs, probably as a consequence of the standardization procedure of soil water budget anomalies. The RDI is only sensitive to the variance but not to the average of P and ETo. The SPEI shows the largest sensitivity to ETo variation, with clear geographic patterns mainly controlled by aridity. The low sensitivity of the PDSI to ETo makes the PDSI perhaps less apt as the suitable drought index in applications in which the changes in ETo are most relevant. On the contrary, the SPEI shows equal sensitivity to P and ETo. It works as a perfect supply and demand system modulated by the average and standard deviation of each series and combines the sensitivity of the series to changes in magnitude and variance. Our results are a robust assessment of the sensitivity of drought indices to P and ETo variation, and provide advice on the use of drought indices to detect climate change impacts on drought severity under a wide variety of climatic conditions. © 2014 Elsevier B.V.
Publisher version (URL)http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.11.025
Identifiersdoi: 10.1016/j.jhydrol.2014.11.025
issn: 0022-1694
e-issn: 1879-2707
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