Multi-Proxy Reconstruction of Drought Variability in China during the Past Two Millennia Academic Article uri icon


  • Drought imposes serious challenges to ecosystems and societies and has plagued mankind throughout the ages. To understand the long-term trend of drought in China, a series of annual self-calibrating Palmer drought severity indexes (scPDSI), which is a semi-physical drought index based on the land surface water balance, were reconstructed during AD 56~2000. Multi-proxy records of tree-ring width and stalagmite oxygen isotope 18O were used for this reconstruction, along with random forest regression. The spatiotemporal characteristics of the reconstruction results were analyzed, and comparisons were made with previous studies. Results showed that (1) China witnessed a drought-based state during the past 2000 years (mean value of scPDSI was 0.3151), with an average annual drought area of 85,000 km2; 4 wetting periods, i.e., the Han Dynasty (AD 56~220), the Tang Dynasty (AD 618~907), the Ming Dynasty (AD 1368~1644), and the Qing Dynasty (AD 1644~1912); and 2 drying periods, i.e., the Era of Disunity (AD 221~580) and the Song Dynasty (AD 960~1279). (2) Three different alternating fluctuation dry-wet modes (i.e., interannual, multidecadal, and centennial scales) in China were all significantly (p-value < 0.001) correlated with the amplitude and frequency of temperature in the Northern Hemisphere. (3) According to the spatial models disassembled from the rotated empirical orthogonal function, China was divided into nine dry-wet regions: northwestern China, Xinjiang, southwestern China, southeastern China, the Loess plateau, central China, southwestern Tibet, eastern China, and northeastern China. (4) The random forest (RF) was found to be accurate and stable for the reconstruction of drought variability in China compared with linear regression.

published proceedings


author list (cited authors)

  • Yang, B., Lai, C., Chen, X., Singh, V. P., & Wang, J.

complete list of authors

  • Yang, Bing||Lai, Chengguang||Chen, Xiaohong||Singh, Vijay P||Wang, Jiawen

publication date

  • March 2022