Drought is a complex phenomenon that can be defined from several perspectives [Wilhite and Glantz, 1987]. The common characteristic and central idea of these perspectives is the straightforward notion of a water deficit. Complexity arises because of the need to specify the part of the hydrologic cycle experiencing the deficit and the associated time period. For example, a long-term deficit in deep groundwater storage can occur simultaneously with a short-term surplus of root zone soil water.
Figure 1 [Changnon, 1987] illustrates how the definitions of drought are related to specific components of the hydrologic cycle. The dashed lines indicate the delayed translation of two hypothetical precipitation deficits with respect to runoff, soil moisture, streamflow and groundwater. From this perspective, precipitation can be considered as the carrier of the drought signal, and hydrological processes are among the final indicators that reveal the presence of drought [Hare, 1987; Klemes, 1987].