Hydrologic model-based Palmer indices for drought characterization in the Yellow River basin, China Academic Article uri icon


  • 2015, Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg. The Palmer indices (PIs) that have been most widely used for drought monitoring and assessment are criticized for two main drawbacks: coarse hydrological accounting processes with a simplified two-stage bucket soil water balance model and arbitrary rules for defining drought properties and standardizing index values through limited calibration and comparison. In this study, we introduce a new proposal of the VIC hydrologic model-based Palmer drought scheme, where traditional PIs (e.g. PDSI) can readily be calculated on the basis of distributed finescale hydrologic simulations. Moreover, recent variants of PI (i.e., SPDI and SPDI-JDI) also provide a preferable standardization strategy that allows probabilistic invariability and better spatio-temporal comparability of computed drought indices. Using gridded meteorological forcing, soil and vegetation data to drive the three-layer VIC model, both non-VIC and VIC-based PIs are investigated to examine their performances for drought characterization and detection. Results indicate that VIC hydrologic model would allow for adjustments in statistical properties of computed PDSI and VIC-based SPDI is also preferable to PDSI for better statistical robustness and spatio-temporal consistency/comparability. Moreover, the joint SPDI-JDI has the strength of integrating multi-scale probabilistic properties and drought information released by individual SPDI, providing overall drought conditions that take into account the onset, persistence and termination of droughts. At proposed 0.25 grid scale, the VIC-based SPDI-JDI indicates high frequency and long total time of drought condition in the Yellow River basin (YRB), China. Although no significant temporal trends are found in identified drought duration and severity, both the seasonal and annual drought index values demonstrate a downward trend (higher drought intensity) for considerable proportions of the YRB. These findings imply high drought risk and potential drying stress for this region. The new framework of hydrologic model-based PIs can help to strengthen our knowledge and/or practices in regional drought monitoring and assessment.

published proceedings


altmetric score

  • 0.5

author list (cited authors)

  • Ma, M., Ren, L., Singh, V. P., Yuan, F., Chen, L. u., Yang, X., & Liu, Y. i.

citation count

  • 32

publication date

  • May 2016