Evaluation of a High-Resolution SPI for Monitoring Local Drought Severity

Rebecca V. Cumbie-Ward State Climate Office of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Ryan P. Boyles State Climate Office of North Carolina, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, North Carolina

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Abstract

A standardized precipitation index (SPI) that uses high-resolution, daily estimates of precipitation from the National Weather Service over the contiguous United States has been developed and is referred to as HRD SPI. There are two different historical distributions computed in the HRD SPI dataset, each with a different combination of normals period (1971–2000 or 1981–2010) and clustering solution of gauge stations. For each historical distribution, the SPI is computed using the NCEP Stage IV and Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) gridded precipitation datasets for a total of four different HRD SPI products. HRD SPIs are found to correlate strongly with independently produced SPIs over the 10-yr period from 2005 to 2015. The drought-monitoring utility of the HRD SPIs is assessed with case studies of drought in the central and southern United States during 2012 and over the Carolinas during 2007–08. A monthly comparison between HRD SPIs and independently produced SPIs reveals generally strong agreement during both events but weak agreement in areas where radar coverage is poor. For both study regions, HRD SPI is compared with the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) to assess the best combination of precipitation input, normals period, and station clustering solution. SPI generated with AHPS precipitation and the 1981–2010 PRISM normals and associated cluster solution is found to best capture the spatial extent and severity of drought conditions indicated by the USDM. This SPI is also able to resolve local variations in drought conditions that are not shown by either the USDM or comparison SPI datasets.

Corresponding author address: Rebecca V. Cumbie-Ward, State Climate Office of North Carolina, Suite 130, Research III Bldg., 1005 Capability Dr., Centennial Campus Box 7236, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7236. E-mail: rvcumbie@ncsu.edu

Abstract

A standardized precipitation index (SPI) that uses high-resolution, daily estimates of precipitation from the National Weather Service over the contiguous United States has been developed and is referred to as HRD SPI. There are two different historical distributions computed in the HRD SPI dataset, each with a different combination of normals period (1971–2000 or 1981–2010) and clustering solution of gauge stations. For each historical distribution, the SPI is computed using the NCEP Stage IV and Advanced Hydrologic Prediction Service (AHPS) gridded precipitation datasets for a total of four different HRD SPI products. HRD SPIs are found to correlate strongly with independently produced SPIs over the 10-yr period from 2005 to 2015. The drought-monitoring utility of the HRD SPIs is assessed with case studies of drought in the central and southern United States during 2012 and over the Carolinas during 2007–08. A monthly comparison between HRD SPIs and independently produced SPIs reveals generally strong agreement during both events but weak agreement in areas where radar coverage is poor. For both study regions, HRD SPI is compared with the U.S. Drought Monitor (USDM) to assess the best combination of precipitation input, normals period, and station clustering solution. SPI generated with AHPS precipitation and the 1981–2010 PRISM normals and associated cluster solution is found to best capture the spatial extent and severity of drought conditions indicated by the USDM. This SPI is also able to resolve local variations in drought conditions that are not shown by either the USDM or comparison SPI datasets.

Corresponding author address: Rebecca V. Cumbie-Ward, State Climate Office of North Carolina, Suite 130, Research III Bldg., 1005 Capability Dr., Centennial Campus Box 7236, North Carolina State University, Raleigh, NC 27695-7236. E-mail: rvcumbie@ncsu.edu
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