On the Spatio-temporal Analysis of Hydrological Droughts from Global Hydrological Models

Hydrology and Earth System Sciences, 8, pp. 619-652, 2011

G. A. Corzo Perez, M. H. J. van Huijgevoort, F. Voß, and H. A. J. van Lanen

“The recent concerns for world-wide extreme events related to climate change phenomena have motivated the development of large scale models that simulate the global water cycle. In this context, analyses of extremes is an important topic that requires the adaptation of methods used for river basin and regional scale models. This paper presents two methodologies that extend the tools to analyze spatio-temporal drought development and characteristics using large scale gridded time series of hydrometeorological data. The methodologies are distinguished and defined as non-contiguous and contiguous drought area analyses (i.e. NCDA and CDA). The NCDA presents time series of percentages of areas in drought at the global scale and for pre-defined regions of known hydroclimatology. The CDA is introduced as a complementary method that generates information on the spatial coherence of drought events at the global scale. Spatial drought events are found through CDA by clustering patterns (contiguous areas). In this study the global hydrological model WaterGAP was used to illustrate the methodology development. Global gridded time series (resolution 0.5°) simulated with the WaterGAP model from land points were used. The NCDA and CDA were applied to identify drought events in subsurface runoff. The percentages of area in drought calculated with both methods show complementary information on the spatial and temporal events for the last decades of the 20th century. The NCDA provides relevant information on the average number of droughts, duration and severity (deficit volume) for pre-defined regions (globe, 2 selected climate regions). Additionally, the CDA provides information on the number of spatially linked areas in drought as well as their geographic location on the globe. An explorative validation process shows that the NCDA results capture the overall spatio-temporal drought extremes over the last decades of the 20th century. Events like the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) in South America and the pan-European drought in 1976 appeared clearly in both analyses. The methodologies introduced provide an important basis for the global characterization of droughts, model inter-comparison, and spatial events validation.”