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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Volume 12, issue 5
Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 1481–1491, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-12-1481-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Special issue: 2nd International Conference on Ecohydrology and Climate...

Nat. Hazards Earth Syst. Sci., 12, 1481–1491, 2012
https://doi.org/10.5194/nhess-12-1481-2012
© Author(s) 2012. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 License.

Research article 16 May 2012

Research article | 16 May 2012

Climate trends and behaviour of drought indices based on precipitation and evapotranspiration in Portugal

A. A. Paulo1,2, R. D. Rosa1, and L. S. Pereira1 A. A. Paulo et al.
  • 1CEER-Biosystems Engineering, Institute of Agronomy, Technical University of Lisbon, Portugal
  • 2Escola Superior Agrária de Santarém, Portugal

Abstract. Distinction between drought and aridity is crucial to understand water scarcity processes. Drought indices are used for drought identification and drought severity characterisation. The Standardised Precipitation Index (SPI) and the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) are the most known drought indices. In this study, they are compared with the modified PDSI for Mediterranean conditions (MedPDSI) and the Standardised Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI). MedPDSI results from the soil water balance of an olive crop, thus real evapotranspiration is considered, while SPEI uses potential (climatic) evapotranspiration. Similarly to the SPI, SPEI can be computed at various time scales. Aiming at understanding possible impacts of climate change, prior to compare the drought indices, a trend analysis relative to precipitation and temperature in 27 weather stations of Portugal was performed for the period 1941 to 2006. A trend for temperature increase was observed for some weather stations and trends for decreasing precipitation in March and increasing in October were also observed for some locations. Comparisons of the SPI and SPEI at 9- and 12-month time scales, the PDSI and MedPDSI were performed for the same stations and period. SPI and SPEI produce similar results for the same time scales concerning drought occurrence and severity. PDSI and MedPDSI correlate well between them and the same happened for SPI and SPEI. PDSI and MedPDSI identify more severe droughts than SPI or SPEI and identify drought occurrence earlier than these indices. This behaviour is likely to be related with the fact that a water balance is performed with PDSI and MedPDSI, which better approaches the supply-demand balance.

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