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Two Different Methods for Flash Drought Identification: Comparison of Their Strengths and Limitations

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  • 1 State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Hohai University, Nanjing, China
  • 2 College of Hydrology and Water Resources, Hohai University, Nanjing, China
  • 3 School of Hydrology and Water Resources, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China
  • 4 Space Sciences and Engineering Center, Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies, University of Wisconsin–Madison, Madison, Wisconsin
  • 5 Atmospheric and Environmental Research, Inc., Lexington, Massachusetts
  • 6 State Key Laboratory of Hydrology-Water Resources and Hydraulic Engineering, Nanjing Hydraulic Research Institute, Nanjing, China
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Abstract

Flash droughts are extreme phenomena that have been identified using two different approaches. The first approach identifies these events based on unusually rapid intensification rates, whereas the second approach implicitly identifies short-term features. This latter approach classifies flash droughts into two types, namely, precipitation deficit and heat wave flash droughts (denoted as PDFD and HWFD). In this study, we evaluate these two approaches over the Yellow River basin (YRB) to determine which approach provides more accurate information about flash droughts and why. Based on the concept of intensification rate, a new quantitative flash drought identification method focused on soil moisture depletion during the onset–development phase is proposed. Its performance was evaluated by comparing the onset time and spatial dynamics of the identified flash droughts with PDFD and HWFD events identified using the second approach. The results show that the rapid-intensification approach is better able to capture the continuous evolution of a flash drought. Since the approach for identifying PDFD and HWFD events does not consider changes in soil moisture with time, it cannot ensure that the events exhibit rapid intensification, nor can it effectively capture flash droughts’ onset. Evaluation of the results showed that the chosen hydrometeorological variables and corresponding thresholds, particularly that of temperature, are the main reasons for the poor performance of the PDFD and HWFD identification approach. This study promotes a deeper understanding of flash droughts that is beneficial for drought monitoring, early warning, and mitigation.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-19-0088.s1.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Liliang Ren, njrll9999@126.com

Abstract

Flash droughts are extreme phenomena that have been identified using two different approaches. The first approach identifies these events based on unusually rapid intensification rates, whereas the second approach implicitly identifies short-term features. This latter approach classifies flash droughts into two types, namely, precipitation deficit and heat wave flash droughts (denoted as PDFD and HWFD). In this study, we evaluate these two approaches over the Yellow River basin (YRB) to determine which approach provides more accurate information about flash droughts and why. Based on the concept of intensification rate, a new quantitative flash drought identification method focused on soil moisture depletion during the onset–development phase is proposed. Its performance was evaluated by comparing the onset time and spatial dynamics of the identified flash droughts with PDFD and HWFD events identified using the second approach. The results show that the rapid-intensification approach is better able to capture the continuous evolution of a flash drought. Since the approach for identifying PDFD and HWFD events does not consider changes in soil moisture with time, it cannot ensure that the events exhibit rapid intensification, nor can it effectively capture flash droughts’ onset. Evaluation of the results showed that the chosen hydrometeorological variables and corresponding thresholds, particularly that of temperature, are the main reasons for the poor performance of the PDFD and HWFD identification approach. This study promotes a deeper understanding of flash droughts that is beneficial for drought monitoring, early warning, and mitigation.

Supplemental information related to this paper is available at the Journals Online website: https://doi.org/10.1175/JHM-D-19-0088.s1.

© 2020 American Meteorological Society. For information regarding reuse of this content and general copyright information, consult the AMS Copyright Policy (www.ametsoc.org/PUBSReuseLicenses).

Corresponding author: Liliang Ren, njrll9999@126.com

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