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Keywords:

  • drought;
  • real-time monitoring;
  • standardized precipitation index;
  • low resolution datasets;
  • streamflow;
  • water resources;
  • dendrochronology;
  • tree growth

Abstract

Assessing the risk, the severity and the likely evolution of droughts are key tasks for improving preparedness of regions prone to drought conditions, and mitigation of drought consequences. The access to real-time and high-quality climatic information is essential for this purpose. Different climatic databases are being developed and made available on real time by climatic research institutions, but their capability for quantifying droughts characteristics including severity, or spatio-temporal variability, is uncertain given their low spatial resolution. In this study, we assessed the capability of three databases with contrasted spatial resolution for measuring spatial and temporal variability of drought occurrence. The standardized precipitation index, calculated for each database, showed that the low resolution datasets allow an acceptable measurement of the magnitude, intensity and duration of droughts, while failing mostly in detecting the spatial patterns of the specific drought episodes. Moreover, the capability of the datasets for assessing the impacts of droughts on surface hydrology and tree growth was examined. Results confirmed the usefulness of the drought index for assessing drought impacts on water resources and forest ecosystems even when low resolution databases are used. Copyright © 2012 Royal Meteorological Society