Articles | Volume 18, issue 9
Research article
03 Sep 2014
Research article |  | 03 Sep 2014

Development of streamflow drought severity–duration–frequency curves using the threshold level method

J. H. Sung and E.-S. Chung

Abstract. This study developed a streamflow drought severity–duration–frequency (SDF) curve that is analogous to the well-known depth–duration–frequency (DDF) curve used for rainfall. Severity was defined as the total water deficit volume to target threshold for a given drought duration. Furthermore, this study compared the SDF curves of four threshold level methods: fixed, monthly, daily, and desired yield for water use. The fixed threshold level in this study is the 70th percentile value (Q70) of the flow duration curve (FDC), which is compiled using all available daily streamflows. The monthly threshold level is the monthly varying Q70 values of the monthly FDC. The daily variable threshold is Q70 of the FDC that was obtained from the antecedent 365 daily streamflows. The desired-yield threshold that was determined by the central government consists of domestic, industrial, and agricultural water uses and environmental in-stream flow. As a result, the durations and severities from the desired-yield threshold level were completely different from those for the fixed, monthly and daily levels. In other words, the desired-yield threshold can identify streamflow droughts using the total water deficit to the hydrological and socioeconomic targets, whereas the fixed, monthly, and daily streamflow thresholds derive the deficiencies or anomalies from the average of the historical streamflow. Based on individual frequency analyses, the SDF curves for four thresholds were developed to quantify the relation among the severities, durations, and frequencies. The SDF curves from the fixed, daily, and monthly thresholds have comparatively short durations because the annual maximum durations vary from 30 to 96 days, whereas those from the desired-yield threshold have much longer durations of up to 270 days. For the additional analysis, the return-period–duration curve was also derived to quantify the extent of the drought duration. These curves can be an effective tool to identify streamflow droughts using severities, durations, and frequencies.