26 Feb 2024
 | 26 Feb 2024
Status: this preprint is currently under review for the journal HESS.

Future drought over Urmia Lake Basin under SSP scenarios: the relevance of snow melt

Maral Habibi, Iman Babaeian, and Wolfgang Schöner

Abstract. Snow melt is one of the sources of freshwater supply in the late spring and summer in the mountainous regions of Iran, especially in the Urmia Lake Basin (ULB). In this study, past and future droughts of Urmia Lake Basin (ULB) have been studied by analyzing three types of droughts: (i) precipitation-deficit based characterized by the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), (ii) precipitation-evapotranspiration based droughts characterized by the Standardized Precipitation and Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and (iii) those droughts forced additionally by snow melt using the Snowmelt and Rain Index (SMRI). While reanalysis data ERA5-land describes the past climate, bias-corrected CMIP6 ensemble serves as the data for the future climate. Contrary to the SPI drought index, an increasing trend has been projected both in snowmelt-based (SMRI trend -0.068 units/year) and evapotranspiration-based (SPEI trend -0.079 units/year) drought indices, both for the period 1995–2014 and significant at the 5 % level. This indicates that summer droughts in the ULB will increase in the future, particularly because of increasing evapotranspiration and less snowmelt, while precipitation changes play a minor role.

Drought severity will generally increase from the near future (2021–2040) to the far future (2081–2100), particularly forced by snowmelt deficit under the SSP5-8.5 scenario for the far future. Under the present climate, the extent of drought-affected areas is similar for all three types of droughts. However, under future climate drought-affected areas forced by snowmelt deficit will increase from about 20 % in the near future (2021–2040) to 60 % in the far future (2081–2100), showing that snow melt plays a vital role in aggravating the drought over the Basin. A decrease in the Basin's drought trend in the 2080s and later can be seen both for SMRI and SPEI indices under SSP1-2.6, which may be due to the temperature effect on snowmelt and evapotranspiration from the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions in SSP1-2.6 scenario at the end of 21st century. Such a decrease in SMRI and SPEI drought indices can also be seen around the 2090s under the SSP2-4.5 scenario. Results also reveal that the mountainous areas of the Basin will experience much less drought compared to the lowlands (including the lake) and foothills.

Maral Habibi, Iman Babaeian, and Wolfgang Schöner

Status: open (extended)

Comment types: AC – author | RC – referee | CC – community | EC – editor | CEC – chief editor | : Report abuse
  • RC1: 'Comment on hess-2024-48', Mauricio Zambrano-Bigiarini, 03 Apr 2024 reply
Maral Habibi, Iman Babaeian, and Wolfgang Schöner
Maral Habibi, Iman Babaeian, and Wolfgang Schöner


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Short summary
Our study investigates how snow melting affects droughts in Iran's Urmia Lake Basin, revealing that future droughts will likely become more severe due to reduced snowmelt and increased evaporation. This is crucial for understanding water availability in the region, affecting millions. We used advanced climate models and drought indices to predict changes, aiming to inform water management strategies.