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CR 78:189-204 (2019)  -  DOI: https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01568

Historical analysis (1981-2017) of drought severity and magnitude over a predominantly arid region of Pakistan

Saadia Hina1,2,3,*, Farhan Saleem2,4

1State Key Laboratory of Numerical Modelling for Atmospheric Sciences and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, PR China
2College of Earth and Planetary Sciences, University of Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100049, PR China
3Department of Environmental Sciences and Engineering, Government College University Faisalabad, Faisalabad 38000, Pakistan
4International Center for Climate and Environment Sciences, Institute of Atmospheric Physics, Chinese Academy of Sciences, Beijing 100029, PR China
*Corresponding author:

ABSTRACT: Droughts are one of the multifaceted meteorological disasters affecting agriculture, livestock and water resources worldwide. Pakistan has a semiarid climate system with a high degree of interannual rainfall variability. This study evaluates the applicability and comparison of 3 drought indices (deciles index [DI], standardized precipitation index [SPI] and reconnaissance drought index [RDI]) in Pakistan. Monthly rainfall and temperature data (1981-2017) from 30 weather stations were used to analyze the current status of drought occurrence in terms of severity and magnitude. A nonparametric Mann-Kendall test and Sen’s slope estimates were applied on drought indices to determine the statistical significance and magnitude of the trend. The DI captured the dry episodes in the region well, as Baluchistan and Sindh provinces have been seen to be more susceptible to droughts. The indices of SPI and RDI were well correlated at 3, 6, 9 and 12 mo timescales. Province-level analysis revealed the highest number of drought years during the 3 mo timescale and the lowest number of drought years during the 12 mo timescale. Overall, a linearly increasing trend of SPI and RDI (towards wetness) was observed, whereas the province-level analysis showed a statistically significant trend at the 95% confidence level for Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab and Sindh in the long-term drought analysis. Moreover, analyses of historical drought years and their intensity have been investigated and compared with a recent long drought episode (1999-2002). The analysis of historical drought events highlights the challenging nature of drought management in Pakistan. The outcomes of this study would help water resource managers to investigate drought response measures for drought preparedness in the country.


KEY WORDS: Drought indices · Severity · Trend analysis · Climate change · Pakistan


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Cite this article as: Hina S, Saleem F (2019) Historical analysis (1981-2017) of drought severity and magnitude over a predominantly arid region of Pakistan. Clim Res 78:189-204. https://doi.org/10.3354/cr01568

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