Drought Characteristics Based on the Retrieved Paleoprecipitation in Indus and Ganges River Basins

Friday, 19 December 2014
Rahman Davtalabsabet1, Dingbao Wang1, Tingju Zhu2 and Claudia Ringler2, (1)University of Central Florida, Orlando, FL, United States, (2)International Food Policy Research Institute, Environment and Production Technology Division, Washington, DC, United States
Indus and Ganges River basins (IGRB), which cover the major parts of India, Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan, are considered as the most important socio-economic regions in South Asia. IGRB support the food security of hundreds of millions people in South Asia. The food production in IGRB strictly relies on the magnitude and spatiotemporal pattern of monsoon precipitation. Due to severe drought during the last decades and food production failure in IGRB, several studies have focused on understanding the main drivers for south Asia monsoon failures and drought characteristics based on the historical data. However, the period of available historical data is not enough to address the full characteristic of drought under a changing climate. In this study, an inverse Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) model is developed to retrieve the paleoprecipitation back to 700 years in the region, taking the inputs of available soil water capacity, temperature, and previous reconstructed PDSI based on tree-ring analysis at 2.5 degree resolution. Based on the retrieved paleoprecipitation, drought frequency and intensity are quantified for two periods of 1300-1899 (the reconstruction period) and 1900-2010 (the instrumental period). Previous studies have shown that in IGRB, a severe drought occurs when the annual precipitation deficit, compared with the long-term average precipitation, is greater than 10%. Climatic drought frequency is calculated as the percentage of years with predefined severe droughts. Drought intensity is defined as the average precipitation deficit during all of the years identified as severe droughts. Results show that the drought frequency, as well as the spatial extent, has significantly increased from the reconstruction period to the instrumental period. The drought frequency in the Indus River basin is higher than that in the Ganges River basin. Several mega-droughts are identified during the reconstruction period.