A global evaluation of streamflow drought characteristics

Fleig, A. K.; Tallaksen, L. M.; Hisdal, H.; Demuth, S.

How drought is characterised depends on the purpose and region of the study and the available data. In case of regional applications or global comparison a standardisation of the methodology to characterise drought is preferable. In this study the threshold level method in combination with three common pooling procedures is applied to daily streamflow series from a wide range of hydrological regimes. Drought deficit characteristics, such as drought duration and deficit volume, are derived, and the methods are evaluated for their applicability for regional studies. Three different pooling procedures are evaluated: the moving-average procedure (MA-procedure), the inter-event time method (IT-method), and the sequent peak algorithm (SPA). The MA-procedure proved to be a flexible approach for the different series, and its parameter, the averaging interval, can easily be optimised for each stream. However, it modifies the discharge series and might introduce dependency between drought events. For the IT-method it is more difficult to find an optimal value for its parameter, the length of the excess period, in particular for flashy streams. The SPA can only be recommended as pooling procedure for the selection of annual maximum series of deficit characteristics and for very low threshold levels to ensure that events occurring shortly after major events are recognized. Furthermore, a frequency analysis of deficit volume and duration is conducted based on partial duration series of drought events. According to extreme value theory, excesses over a certain limit are Generalized Pareto (GP) distributed. It was found that this model indeed performed better than or equally to other distribution models. In general, the GP-model could be used for streams of all regime types. However, for intermittent streams, zero-flow periods should be treated as censored data. For catchments with frost during the winter season, summer and winter droughts have to be analysed separately.



Fleig, A. K. / Tallaksen, L. M. / Hisdal, H. / et al: A global evaluation of streamflow drought characteristics. 2006. Copernicus Publications.


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