The SWAP, a day-to-day monitoring tool for drought (as well as flood)

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Thursday, 8 January 2015
Er Lu, Nanjing University of Information Science and Technology, Nanjing, China; and W. Cai, Z. Jiang, and Q. Zhang

Dry/wet condition has a large interannual variability. Decision-makers need to know the onset, duration, and intensity of drought, and require droughts be monitored at a daily to weekly scale. However, previous tools cannot monitor drought well at this short timescale. The Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) has been found dissatisfactory in monitoring because of its complexity and numerous limitations. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) always asks for a timescale, and precipitation is averaged over the period of the scale. Because of this, the SPI cannot be used for short scales, e.g., several days, and what it tells is the overall drought situation of the period. The Weighted Average of Precipitation (WAP) developed by Lu (2009) overcomes the deficiency of the SPI; it does not require a timescale, and can provide the drought (and flood) extent of each day. Therefore, the WAP can monitor drought at scales from daily to weekly, monthly, and any longer scale, and is really “flexible and versatile for all timescales”. In this study, the Standardized WAP (SWAP) is used to monitor the 2011 drought over China. Drought swept the country during the year from north to south and from east to west. In spring, a once-in-a-fifty-year drought occurred over the Yangtze River basin and the southern region, causing serious shortage of drinking water for people and livestock, as well as tremendous losses in agriculture and the shipping industry. Results show that the SWAP, with its monthly mean plots, can well reproduce the seasonal shift of the 2011 drought across the country. The animation of daily plots demonstrates that the SWAP would have been able to monitor the day-to-day variation of the spring drought around the Yangtze River basin. It can provide the details of the drought, such as when the drought emerged over the region, how long it maintained there (though drought area may move back and forth with extension and contraction of the area), and when the drought relieved over the basin.