Multi-model drought estimation using regional climate model output.

McCabe, M.F., B. Sung, J.P. Evans and J. Sheffield
AGU Fall meeting, 3-7 December 2012, San Francisco, USA.


Drought is a recurring climatic phenomenon in Australia and many other regions of the world. Apart from the considerable social and health repercussions that widespread drought has at a community level, there are major implications to the landscape, economy and water resources sectors. One of the key outputs in drought characterisation is determining the degree, extent and severity of the actual drought. However, there exist a range of techniques to quantify drought (each with its own definition) that adds to the level of uncertainty in accurate estimation. To examine the range and variability in multi-model drought prediction, a study of drought characteristics is undertaken, focusing on one of Australia’s most significant agricultural regions: the Murray Darling Basin (MDB). Common drought indices including the Reconnaissance Drought Index (RDI), Standard Runoff Index (SRI), Soil Moisture Percentiles (SMP) and Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) were derived using output from a high resolution regional climate simulation of the MDB for the period from 1985 to 2008. Spatial and temporal analyses were conducted by comparing these indices across regional scales. A severity-area-duration analysis and drought clustering approach were also used to characterize the extent and severity of these events across south-eastern Australia. Overall it was found that the four drought indices responded similarly to precipitation anomalies and successfully captured the major droughts over the nearly 25 years of simulation. The recent Australian drought from 2002-2008 was the most severe as shown by various analyses. Indeed, the Murray Darling Basin experienced contiguous moderate to extreme drought conditions for long periods, covering almost 100% of both the Darling and Murray Basins. Analysis of results also showed that the duration of droughts varied greatly between indices, as drought assessments using soil moisture parameters tended to recover in response to precipitation at a much slower rate.

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