Analysis of Spatial Performance of Meteorological Drought Indices
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Meteorological drought indices are commonly calculated from climatic stations that have long-term historical data and then converted to a regular grid using spatial interpolation methods. The gridded drought indices are mapped to aid decision making by policy makers and the general public. This study analyzes the spatial performance of interpolation methods for meteorological drought indices in the United States based on data from the Co-operative Observer Network (COOP) and United States Historical Climatology Network (USHCN) for different months, climatic regions and years. An error analysis was performed using cross-validation and the results were compared for the 9 climate regions that comprise the United States. Errors are generally higher in regions and months dominated by convective precipitation. Errors are also higher in regions like the western United States that are dominated by mountainous terrain. Higher errors are consistently observed in the southeastern U.S. especially in Florida. Interpolation errors are generally higher in the summer than winter. The accuracy of different drought indices was also compared. The Standardized Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) tends to have lower errors than Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) in seasons with significant convective precipitation. This is likely because SPEI uses both precipitation and temperature data in its calculation, whereas SPI is based solely on precipitation. There are also variations in interpolation accuracy based on the network that is used. In general, COOP is more accurate than USHCN because the COOP network has a higher density of stations. USHCN is a subset of the COOP network that is comprised of high quality stations that have a long and complete record. However the difference in accuracy is not as significant as the difference in spatial density between the two networks. For multiscalar SPI, USHCN performs better than COOP because the stations tend to have a longer record. The ordinary kriging method (with optimal function fitting) performed better than Inverse Distance Weighted (IDW) methods (power parameters 2.0 and 2.5) in all cases and therefore it is recommended for interpolating drought indices. However, ordinary kriging only provided a statistically significant improvement in accuracy for the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) with the COOP network. Therefore it can be concluded that IDW is a reasonable method for interpolating drought indices, but optimal ordinary kriging provides some improvement in accuracy. The most significant factor affecting the spatial accuracy of drought indices is seasonality (precipitation climatology) and this holds true for almost all the regions of U.S. for 1-month SPI and SPEI. The high-quality USHCN network gives better interpolation accuracy with 6-, 9- and 12-month SPI and variation in errors amongst the different SPI time scales is minimal. The difference between networks is also significant for PDSI. Although the absolute magnitude of the differences between interpolation with COOP and USHCN are small, the accuracy of interpolation with COOP is much more spatially variable than with USHCN.
SubjectPalmer drought severity index (PDSI)
Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), Standardized Precipitation and Evapotranspiration index (SPEI)
Inverse distance weighted
Patil, Sandeep 1986- (2012). Analysis of Spatial Performance of Meteorological Drought Indices. Master's thesis, Texas A&M University. Available electronically from