Model-Based Drought Indices over the United States

Kingtse C. Mo Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, Camp Springs, Maryland

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Abstract

Drought indices derived from the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) and Noah models from 1950 to 2000 are intercompared and evaluated for their ability to classify drought across the United States. For meteorological drought, the standardized precipitation index (SPI) is used to measure precipitation deficits. The standardized runoff index (SRI), which is similar to the SPI, is used to classify hydrological drought. Agricultural drought is measured by monthly-mean soil moisture (SM) anomaly percentiles based on probability distributions (PDs). The PDs for total SM are regionally dependent and influenced by the seasonal cycle, but the PDs for SM monthly-mean anomalies are unimodal and Gaussian.

Across the eastern United States (east of 95°W), the indices derived from VIC and Noah are similar, and they are able to detect the same drought events. Indices are also well correlated. For river forecast centers (RFCs) across the eastern United States, different drought indices are likely to detect the same drought events.

The monthly-mean soil moisture (SM) percentiles and runoff indices between VIC and Noah have large differences across the western interior of the United States. For small areas with a horizontal resolution of 0.5° on the time scales of one to three months, the differences of SM percentiles and SRI between VIC and Noah are larger than the thresholds used to classify drought. For the western RFCs, drought events selected according to SM percentiles or SRI derived from different NLDAS systems do not always overlap.

Corresponding author address: Kingtse C. Mo, Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: kingtse.mo@noaa.gov

Abstract

Drought indices derived from the North American Land Data Assimilation System (NLDAS) Variable Infiltration Capacity (VIC) and Noah models from 1950 to 2000 are intercompared and evaluated for their ability to classify drought across the United States. For meteorological drought, the standardized precipitation index (SPI) is used to measure precipitation deficits. The standardized runoff index (SRI), which is similar to the SPI, is used to classify hydrological drought. Agricultural drought is measured by monthly-mean soil moisture (SM) anomaly percentiles based on probability distributions (PDs). The PDs for total SM are regionally dependent and influenced by the seasonal cycle, but the PDs for SM monthly-mean anomalies are unimodal and Gaussian.

Across the eastern United States (east of 95°W), the indices derived from VIC and Noah are similar, and they are able to detect the same drought events. Indices are also well correlated. For river forecast centers (RFCs) across the eastern United States, different drought indices are likely to detect the same drought events.

The monthly-mean soil moisture (SM) percentiles and runoff indices between VIC and Noah have large differences across the western interior of the United States. For small areas with a horizontal resolution of 0.5° on the time scales of one to three months, the differences of SM percentiles and SRI between VIC and Noah are larger than the thresholds used to classify drought. For the western RFCs, drought events selected according to SM percentiles or SRI derived from different NLDAS systems do not always overlap.

Corresponding author address: Kingtse C. Mo, Climate Prediction Center, NOAA/NWS/NCEP, 5200 Auth Rd., Camp Springs, MD 20746. Email: kingtse.mo@noaa.gov

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