A theoretical drought classification method for the multivariate drought index based on distribution properties of standardized drought indices
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2016 Elsevier Ltd. Drought indices have been commonly used to characterize different properties of drought and the need to combine multiple drought indices for accurate drought monitoring has been well recognized. Based on linear combinations of multiple drought indices, a variety of multivariate drought indices have recently been developed for comprehensive drought monitoring to integrate drought information from various sources. For operational drought management, it is generally required to determine thresholds of drought severity for drought classification to trigger a mitigation response during a drought event to aid stakeholders and policy makers in decision making. Though the classification of drought categories based on the univariate drought indices has been well studied, drought classification method for the multivariate drought index has been less explored mainly due to the lack of information about its distribution property. In this study, a theoretical drought classification method is proposed for the multivariate drought index, based on a linear combination of multiple indices. Based on the distribution property of the standardized drought index, a theoretical distribution of the linear combined index (LDI) is derived, which can be used for classifying drought with the percentile approach. Application of the proposed method for drought classification of LDI, based on standardized precipitation index (SPI), standardized soil moisture index (SSI), and standardized runoff index (SRI) is illustrated with climate division data from California, United States. Results from comparison with the empirical methods show a satisfactory performance of the proposed method for drought classification.