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Accurate Computation of a Streamflow Drought Index

AuthorsVicente Serrano, Sergio M. CSIC ORCID ; López-Moreno, Juan I. CSIC ORCID ; Beguería, Santiago CSIC ORCID ; Lorenzo-Lacruz, Jorge CSIC ORCID; Azorín-Molina, César CSIC ORCID; Morán-Tejeda, Enrique CSIC ORCID CVN
KeywordsHydrological drought
River flows
Standardized streamflow index
Standardized precipitation index
Low flows
Runoff index
Flow index
Issue DateMay-2012
PublisherAmerican Society of Civil Engineers
CitationVicente-Serrano SM, López-Moreno JI, Beguería S, Lorenzo-Lacruz J, Azorín-Molina C, Morán-Tejeda E. Accurate Computation of a Streamflow Drought Index. Journal of Hydrologic Engineering 17 (2): 318-332 (2012)
AbstractIn this study, the authors investigated an approach to calculate the standardized streamflow index (SSI), which allows accurate spatial and temporal comparison of the hydrological conditions of a stream or set of streams. For this purpose, the capability of six three-parameter distributions (lognormal, Pearson Type III, log-logistic, general extreme value, generalized Pareto, and Weibull) and two different approaches to select the most suitable distribution the best monthly fit (BMF) and the minimum orthogonal distance (MD), were tested by using a monthly streamflow data set for the Ebro Basin (Spain). This large Mediterranean basin is characterized by high variability in the magnitude of streamflows and in seasonal regimes. The results show that the most commonly used probability distributions for flow frequency analysis provided good fits to the streamflow series. Thus, the visual inspection of the L-moment diagrams and the results of the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test did not enable the selection of a single optimum probability distribution. However, no single probability distribution for all the series was suitable for obtaining a robust standardized streamflow series because each of the distributions had one or more limitations. The BMF and MD approaches improved the results in the expected average, standard deviation, and the frequencies of extreme events of the SSI series in relation to the selection of a unique distribution for each station. The BMF and MD approaches involved using different probability distributions for each gauging station and month of the year to calculate the SSI. Both approaches are easy to apply and they provide very similar results in the quality of the obtained hydrological drought indexes. The proposed procedures are very flexible for analyses involving contrasting hydrological regimes and flow characteristics.
Description44 Pags., 4 Tabls., 12 Figs. The definitive version is available at:
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