Articles | Volume 18, issue 7
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2485–2492, 2014

Special issue: Drought forecasting and warning

Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2485–2492, 2014

Research article 04 Jul 2014

Research article | 04 Jul 2014

A baseline probabilistic drought forecasting framework using standardized soil moisture index: application to the 2012 United States drought

A. AghaKouchak A. AghaKouchak
  • Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote Sensing, Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, University of California, Irvine, CA, USA

Abstract. The 2012 drought was one of the most extensive drought events in half a century, resulting in over USD 12 billion in economic loss in the United States and substantial indirect impacts on global food security and commodity prices. An important feature of the 2012 drought was rapid development and intensification in late spring/early summer, a critical time for crop development and investment planning. Drought prediction remains a major challenge because dynamical precipitation forecasts are highly uncertain, and their prediction skill is low. Using a probabilistic framework for drought forecasting based on the persistence property of accumulated soil moisture, this paper shows that the US drought of summer 2012 was predictable several months in advance. The presented drought forecasting framework provides the probability occurrence of drought based on climatology and near-past observations of soil moisture. The results indicate that soil moisture exhibits higher persistence than precipitation, and hence improves drought predictability.