Drought, a normal recurrent event in arid and semiarid lands such as Iran, is typically of a temporary nature usually leaving little permanent aftermath. In the current study, the rainfall and drought severity time series were analyzed at 10 stations in the eastern half of Iran for the period 1966–2005. The drought severity was computed using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) for a 12-month timescale. The trend analyses of the data were also performed using the Kendall and Spearman tests. The results of this study showed that the rainfall and drought severity data had high variations to average values in the study period, and these variations increased with increasing aridity towards the south of the study area. The negative serial correlations found in the seasonal and annual rainfall time series were mostly insignificant. The trend tests detected a significant decreasing trend in the spring rainfall series of Birjand station at the rate of 8.56 mm per season per decade and a significant increasing trend in the summer rainfall series of Torbateheydarieh station at the rate of 0.14 mm per season per decade, whereas the rest of the trends were insignificant. Furthermore, the 12-month values of the standardized precipitation index decreased at all the stations except Zabol during the past four decades. During the study period, all of the stations experienced at least one extreme drought which mainly occurred in the winter season. Copyright © 2011 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.