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Keywords:

  • drought;
  • drought index;
  • global warming;
  • evaporation;
  • Penman–Monteith;
  • standardized precipitation index (SPI);
  • Palmer drought severity index (PDSI)

ABSTRACT

The standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) was developed in 2010 and has been used in an increasing number of climatology and hydrology studies. The objective of this article is to describe computing options that provide flexible and robust use of the SPEI. In particular, we present methods for estimating the parameters of the log-logistic distribution for obtaining standardized values, methods for computing reference evapotranspiration (ET0), and weighting kernels used for calculation of the SPEI at different time scales. We discuss the use of alternative ET0 and actual evapotranspiration (ETa) methods and different options on the resulting SPEI series by use of observational and global gridded data. The results indicate that the equation used to calculate ET0 can have a significant effect on the SPEI in some regions of the world. Although the original formulation of the SPEI was based on plotting-positions Probability Weighted Moment (PWM), we now recommend use of unbiased PWM for model fitting. Finally, we present new software tools for computation and analysis of SPEI series, an updated global gridded database, and a real-time drought-monitoring system.