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  • Drought: Advances in Monitoring, Preparedness, and Understanding Drought Characteristics x
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Di Long, Bridget R. Scanlon, D. Nelun Fernando, Lei Meng, and Steven M. Quiring

Abstract

Large-scale environmental, social, and economic impacts of recent weather and climate extremes are raising questions about whether the frequency and intensity of these extremes have been increasing. Here, the authors evaluate trends in climate extremes during the past half century using the U.S. High Plains as a case study. A total of eight different extreme indices and the standardized precipitation index (SPI) were evaluated using daily maximum and minimum temperature and precipitation data from 207 stations and 0.25° gridded data. The 1958–2010 time period was selected to exclude the 1950s and 2011 droughts. Results show general consistency between the station data and gridded data. The annual extreme temperature range (ETR) decreased significantly (p < 0.05) in ~54% of the High Plains, with a spatial mean rate of −0.7°C decade−1. Decreases in ETR result primarily from increases in annual lowest temperature in ~63% of the stations at a mean rate of ~0.9°C decade−1, whereas increases in annual highest temperature were much less. Approximately 43% of the stations showed increasing warm nights (Tmin90) with a spatial mean rate of 0.5% decade−1. Precipitation intensity generally did not vary significantly in most grid cells and stations. Significant decreasing trends in consecutive dry days (CDD) were restricted to 21% of the stations in the northern High Plains with a spatial mean of −0.8 days decade−1. Areas experiencing severe dry periods (1-month SPI < −1.5) decreased over time from 8% to 4%. The number of dry months (SPI < 0) in each year also decreased. In summary, the ETR is decreasing and low temperatures are increasing. Precipitation extremes are generally not changing in the High Plains; however, high natural climatic variability in this semiarid region makes it difficult to assess climate extremes.

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Daniel J. McEvoy, Justin L. Huntington, John T. Abatzoglou, and Laura M. Edwards

Abstract

Nevada and eastern California are home to some of the driest and warmest climates, most mountainous regions, and fastest growing metropolitan areas of the United States. Throughout Nevada and eastern California, snow-dominated watersheds provide most of the water supply for both human and environmental demands. Increasing demands on finite water supplies have resulted in the need to better monitor drought and its associated hydrologic and agricultural impacts. Two multiscalar drought indices, the standardized precipitation index (SPI) and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), are evaluated over Nevada and eastern California regions of the Great Basin using standardized streamflow, lake, and reservoir water surface stages to quantify wet and dry periods. Results show that both metrics are significantly correlated to surface water availability, with SPEI showing slightly higher correlations over SPI, suggesting that the inclusion of a simple term for atmospheric demand in SPEI is useful for characterizing hydrologic drought in arid regions. These results also highlight the utility of multiscalar drought indices as a proxy for summer groundwater discharge and baseflow periods.

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Richard R. Heim Jr. and Michael J. Brewer

Abstract

The international scientific community has long recognized the need for coordinated drought monitoring and response, but many factors have prevented progress in the development of a Global Drought Early Warning System (GDEWS): some of which involve administrative issues (coordinated international action and policy) while others involve scientific, technological, and logistical issues. The creation of the National Integrated Drought Information System (NIDIS) Portal within the United States provided an opportunity to take the first steps toward building the informational foundation for a GDEWS: that is, a Global Drought Information System (GDIS). At a series of workshops sponsored by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) and Group on Earth Observations (GEO) held in Asheville, North Carolina, in April 2010, it was recommended that a modular approach be taken in the creation of a GDIS and that the NIDIS Portal serve as the foundation for the GDIS structure. Once a NIDIS-based Global Drought Monitor (GDM) Portal (GDMP) established an international drought clearinghouse, the various components of a GDIS (drought monitoring, forecasting, impacts, history, research, and education) and later a GDEWS (drought relief, recovery, and planning) could be constructed atop it. The NIDIS Portal is a web-based information system created to address drought services and early warning in the United States, including drought monitoring, forecasting, impacts, mitigation, research, and education. This portal utilizes Open Geospatial Consortium (OGC) web mapping services (WMS) to incorporate continental drought monitors into the GDMP. As of early 2012, the GDM has incorporated continental drought information for North America (North American Drought Monitor), Europe (European Drought Observatory), and Africa (African Drought Monitor developed by Princeton University); interest has been expressed by groups representing Australia and South America; and coordination with appropriate parties in Asia is also expected. Because of the range of climates across the world and the diverse nature of drought and the sectors it impacts, the construction and functioning of each continental drought monitor needs to be appropriate for the continent in question. The GDMP includes a suite of global drought indicators identified by experts and adopted by the WMO as the necessary measures to examine drought from a meteorological standpoint; these global drought indicators provide a base to assist the global integration and interpretation of the continental drought monitors. The GDMP has been included in recent updates to the GEO Work Plan and has benefited from substantial coordination with WMO on both their Global Framework for Climate Services and the National Drought Policy efforts. The GDMP is recognized as having the potential to be a major contributor to both of these activities.

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Ashok K. Mishra and Vijay P. Singh

Abstract

Because of their stochastic nature, droughts vary in space and time, and therefore quantifying droughts at different time units is important for water resources planning. The authors investigated the relationship between meteorological variables and hydrological drought properties using the Palmer hydrological drought index (PHDI). Twenty different spatial units were chosen from the unit of a climatic division to a regional unit across the United States. The relationship between meteorological variables and PHDI was investigated using a wavelet–Bayesian regression model, which enhances the modeling strength of a simple Bayesian regression model. Further, the wavelet–Bayesian regression model was tested for the predictability of global climate models (GCMs) to simulate PHDI, which will also help understand their role for downscaling purposes.

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Kingtse C. Mo, Lindsey N. Long, and Jae-Kyung E. Schemm

Abstract

Atmosphere–land–ocean coupled model simulations are examined to diagnose the ability of models to simulate drought and persistent wet spells over the United States. A total of seven models are selected for this study. They are three versions of the NCEP Climate Forecast System (CFS) coupled general circulation model (CGCM) with a T382, T126, and T62 horizontal resolution; GFDL Climate Model version 2.0 (CM2.0); GFDL CM2.1; Max Planck Institute (MPI) ECHAM5; and third climate configuration of the Met Office Unified Model (HadCM3) simulations from the World Climate Research Programme (WCRP) Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 3 (CMIP3) experiments.

Over the United States, drought and persistent wet spells are more likely to occur over the western interior region, while extreme events are less likely to persist over the eastern United States and the West Coast. For meteorological drought, which is defined by precipitation (P) deficit, the east–west contrast is well simulated by the CFS T382 and the T126 models. The HadCM3 captures the pattern but not the magnitudes of the frequency of occurrence of persistent extreme events. For agricultural drought, which is defined by soil moisture (SM) deficit, the CFS T382, CFS T126, MPI ECHAM5, and HadCM3 models capture the east–west contrast.

The models that capture the west–east contrast also have a realistic P climatology and seasonal cycle. ENSO is the dominant mode that modulates P over the United States. A model needs to have the ENSO mode and capture the mean P responses to ENSO in order to simulate realistic drought. To simulate realistic agricultural drought, the model needs to capture the persistence of SM anomalies over the western region.

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Sergio M. Vicente-Serrano, Santiago Beguería, Jorge Lorenzo-Lacruz, Jesús Julio Camarero, Juan I. López-Moreno, Cesar Azorin-Molina, Jesús Revuelto, Enrique Morán-Tejeda, and Arturo Sanchez-Lorenzo

Abstract

In this study, the authors provide a global assessment of the performance of different drought indices for monitoring drought impacts on several hydrological, agricultural, and ecological response variables. For this purpose, they compare the performance of several drought indices [the standardized precipitation index (SPI); four versions of the Palmer drought severity index (PDSI); and the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI)] to predict changes in streamflow, soil moisture, forest growth, and crop yield. The authors found a superior capability of the SPEI and the SPI drought indices, which are calculated on different time scales than the Palmer indices to capture the drought impacts on the aforementioned hydrological, agricultural, and ecological variables. They detected small differences in the comparative performance of the SPI and the SPEI indices, but the SPEI was the drought index that best captured the responses of the assessed variables to drought in summer, the season in which more drought-related impacts are recorded and in which drought monitoring is critical. Hence, the SPEI shows improved capability to identify drought impacts as compared with the SPI. In conclusion, it seems reasonable to recommend the use of the SPEI if the responses of the variables of interest to drought are not known a priori.

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Charles W. Lafon and Steven M. Quiring

Abstract

Fire affects virtually all terrestrial ecosystems but occurs more commonly in some than in others. This paper investigates how climate, specifically the moisture regime, influences the flammability of different landscapes in the eastern United States. A previous study of spatial differences in fire regimes across the central Appalachian Mountains suggested that intra-annual precipitation variability influences fire occurrence more strongly than does total annual precipitation. The results presented here support that conclusion. The relationship of fire occurrence to moisture regime is also considered for the entire eastern United States. To do so, mean annual wildfire density and mean annual area burned were calculated for 34 national forests and parks representing the major vegetation and climatic conditions throughout the eastern forests. The relationship between fire activity and two climate variables was analyzed: mean annual moisture balance [precipitation P − potential evapotranspiration (PET)] and daily precipitation variability (coefficient of variability for daily precipitation). Fire activity is related to both climate variables but displays a stronger relationship with precipitation variability. The southeastern United States is particularly noteworthy for its high wildfire activity, which is associated with a warm, humid climate and a variable precipitation regime, which promote heavy fuel production and rapid drying of fuels.

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