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Hydrology and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-458
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
https://doi.org/10.5194/hess-2020-458
© Author(s) 2020. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

  05 Oct 2020

05 Oct 2020

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This preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Streamflow drought: implication of drought definitions and its application for drought forecasting

Samuel J. Sutanto and Henny A. J. Van Lanen Samuel J. Sutanto and Henny A. J. Van Lanen
  • Hydrology and Quantitative Water Management Group, Environmental Sciences Department, Wageningen University and Research, Droevendaalsesteeg 3a, 6708PB, Wageningen, the Netherlands

Abstract. Streamflow drought forecasting is a key element of contemporary Drought Early Warning Systems (DEWS). The term streamflow drought forecasting, rather than streamflow forecasting, however, has created confusion within the scientific hydro-meteorological community, as well as in operational weather and water management services. The way, how streamflow drought is defined, is the main reason for this misperception. The purpose of this study, therefore, is to provide a comprehensive overview of the differences within streamflow droughts using different identification approaches for European rivers, including an analysis of both historical drought and implications of forecasting of these extreme events. Streamflow data were obtained from a LISFLOOD hydrological model forced with gridded meteorological observed (known as LISFLOOD-Simulation Forced with Observed, SFO). The same model fed with seasonal meteorological forecasts of the European Centre for Medium-range Weather Forecasts system 5 (ECMWF SEAS 5) was used to obtain the forecasted streamflow. Streamflow droughts were analyzed using the Variable Threshold (VT), Fixed Threshold (FT), and the Standardized Streamflow Index (SSI). Our results clearly show that streamflow droughts derived from different approaches deviate from each other both in occurrence and timing, associated with different climate regions across Europe. The occurrence of FT drought is higher than droughts based upon VT and SSI, which highlights the importance of seasonality. FT drought happens earlier in the year than droughts obtained from VT and SSI. The use of aggregating daily streamflow data into monthly time windows for forecasting drought, such as the application of 30-day Moving Average (30DMA), is recommended to identify the VT and FT droughts. This approach will eliminate the undesired minor drought events, which are identified when using non-aggregated daily flow data. There is no unique hydrological drought definition that fits all purposes, hence developers of DEWS and end-users should clearly agree among themselves upon a sharp definition on which type of streamflow drought is required to be forecasted for a specific application.

Samuel J. Sutanto and Henny A. J. Van Lanen

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Samuel J. Sutanto and Henny A. J. Van Lanen

Samuel J. Sutanto and Henny A. J. Van Lanen

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Short summary
This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the differences within streamflow droughts using different identification approaches, namely the Variable Threshold, Fixed Threshold, and the Standardized Streamflow Index. Our results clearly show that streamflow droughts derived from different approaches deviate from each other both in occurrence and timing. The use of aggregating daily streamflow data into monthly time windows for forecasting drought is recommended.
This paper provides a comprehensive overview of the differences within streamflow droughts using...
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