In this study we analyzed the sensitivity of four drought indices to precipitation (P) and reference evapotranspiration (ETo) inputs. The four drought indices are the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), the Reconnaissance Drought Index (RDI), the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and the Standardized Palmer Drought Index (SPDI). The analysis uses long-term simulated series with varying averages and variances, as well as global observational data to assess the sensitivity to real climatic conditions in different regions of the World. The results show differences in the sensitivity to ETo and P among the four drought indices. The PDSI shows the lowest sensitivity to variation in their climate inputs, probably as a consequence of the standardization procedure of soil water budget anomalies. The RDI is only sensitive to the variance but not to the average of P and ETo. The SPEI shows the largest sensitivity to ETo variation, with clear geographic patterns mainly controlled by aridity. Our results are a robust assessment of the sensitivity of drought indices to P and ETo variation, and provide advice on the use of drought indices to detect climate change impacts on drought severity under a wide variety of climatic conditions.
SM Vicente-Serrano, G van der Schrier, S Begueria, C Azorin-Molina, JI Lopez-Moreno. Contribution of precipitation and reference evapotranspiration to drought indices under different climates
submitted, J. Hydrol., 2014