The challenges of hydrological drought definition, quantification and communication: an interdisciplinary perspective

Stahl, Kerstin; Vidal, Jean-Philippe; Hannaford, Jamie; Tijdeman, Erik; Laaha, Gregor; Gauster, Tobias; Tallaksen, Lena M.

Numerous indices exist for the description of hydrological drought. The EURO FRIEND-Water Low flow and Drought Group has repeatedly discussed changing paradigms in the perception and use of existing and emerging new indices for hydrological drought identification and characterization. Group members have also tested the communication of different indices to stakeholders in several national and international transdisciplinary research projects. This contribution presents the experience gained with regard to the purpose and applicability of different classes of drought indices. A recent paradigm shift is the use of anomalies, traditionally from climatology, in hydrology. For instance, anomaly-based indices, such as the Standardized Streamflow Index (SSI) and the variable threshold level method to define streamflow deficiencies, are used increasingly for real-time monitoring. How these indices relate to low flows and their impacts may have become less clear as a result. Assessments of the severity of a particular drought may also differ depending on whether return periods based on traditional low flow or drought frequency analyses or whether SSI time series index values are used. These experiences call for a systematic comparison, classification and evaluation of different low flow and drought indices and their usages.

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Stahl, Kerstin / Vidal, Jean-Philippe / Hannaford, Jamie / et al: The challenges of hydrological drought definition, quantification and communication: an interdisciplinary perspective. 2020. Copernicus Publications.

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