Drought index predictability for historical and future periods across the Southern plain of Nepal Himalaya.
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Drought episodes across the Himalayas are inevitable due to rapidly increasing atmospheric temperatures and uncertainties in rainfall patterns. Tarai of Nepal is a tropical region located in the foothills of the Central Himalaya as a country's food granary with a contribution of over 50% to the entire country's agricultural production. However, there is a lack of detailed studies exploring the spatiotemporal occurrence of drought in these regions under the changing climate. In this study, we used the ensemble of nine climate models from the Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 6 (CMIP6) under two shared socio-economic pathways (SSPs), namely SSP245 (an intermediate development pathway) and SSP585 (a high development pathway), to assess anticipated drought during the mid-century. We used bias-corrected gridded data from the Worldclim to project drought events by the end of the mid-century based on the historical period (1989-2018). We computed historical and projected Thornthwaite moisture index (TMI) to evaluate soil moisture conditions on a seasonal scale for the Tarai region's Eastern, Central, and Western parts. The model ensemble projected a significant increase in precipitation and temperature for the entire Tarai by the end of mid-century. However, the winter and spring seasons are projected to suffer precipitation deficiency and a temperature rise. Our results indicated that the Eastern Tarai would likely experience a decrease in winter precipitation. We emphasize that the presented spatiotemporal pattern of the MI will be instrumental in addressing the irrigation facility's needs, choice, and rotation of crops under the changing climate scenarios and in improving our mitigation measures and adaptation plans for sustainability of the agriculture in drought-prone areas.