Evolution and characterization of drought events from GRACE and other satellite and observation.

Thursday, 17 December 2015
Poster Hall (Moscone South)
Meng Zhao1, Geruo A2, Isabella Velicogna1 and John S Kimball3, (1)University of California Irvine, Irvine, CA, United States, (2)University of California Irvine, Department of Earth System Science, Irvine, CA, United States, (3)University of Montana, Numerical Terradynamic Simulation Group, College of Forestry & Conservation, Missoula, MT, United States
We use GRACE Terrestrial Water Storage (TWS) changes to calculate a newly developed global drought severity index (GRACE-DSI) for monthly monitoring of water supply changes during 2002-2015. We compare GRACE-DSI with Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and other ancillary data to characterize drought timing, evolution and magnitude in the continental US since 2002. Overall GRACE-DSI and PDSI show an excellent correspondence in the US. However PDSI is very sensitive to atmospheric moisture stress, while GRACE-DSI only responds to changes in terrestrial water storage. We use the complementary nature of these two indices together with temperature and precipitation observations to characterize drought evolution and its nature. For instance, during the 2012 flash drought in the Great Plains, the PDSI decreases several months earlier than the GRACE-DSI in response to the enhanced atmosphere moisture demand caused by unusual early season warming. When the drought peaks later in the summer, the PDSI indicates exceptional drought, while the GRACE-DSI observes moderate drought conditions in the underlying total water supply, implying a meteorological drought in nature.

GRACE-DSI is based solely on satellite observations; hence it has the advantage of not being affected by uncertainty associated with variable that are not well known at the global scale (e.g. precipitation estimates) and by biases associated to global climate model outputs. We find that GRACE-DSI captures major drought events in the globe occurring during 2002-2015, including those in sub-Sahara Africa, Australia, Amazon, Asia, North America and the Arctic.