Understanding and seasonal forecasting of hydrological drought in the anthropocene

Hydrology and Earth System Science | Yuan et al. [2016]


Hydrological drought is not only caused by natural hydro-climate variability, but can also be directly altered by human interventions including reservoir operation, irrigation and groundwater exploitation, etc. Understanding and forecasting of hydrological drought in the anthropocene are grand challenges due to complicated interactions among climate, hydrology and human. In this paper, five decades (1961–2010) of naturalized and observed streamflow datasets are used to investigate hydrological drought characteristics in a heavily managed river basin, the Yellow River basin in North China. It is found that human interventions increase the nonlinear response of hydrological drought to the meteorological drought, and increase the response time especially during rainy seasons. Due to large water consumptions over the middle and lower reaches, there are two to four-fold increases in the hydrological drought frequency and up to six-fold increases in the drought severity, the drought duration increases by 12–83 %, and the drought onset becomes earlier. A set of 29-year (1982–2010) hindcasts from an established seasonal hydrological forecasting system are used to assess the forecast skill of hydrological drought. In the naturalized condition, the climate–model-based approach outperforms the climatology method in predicting the 2001 severe hydrological drought event. Based on the 29-year hindcasts, the former method has a Brier Skill Score of 11 %–26 % against the latter for the probabilistic hydrological drought forecasting. In the anthropocene, the skill for both approaches increases due to dominant influence of human interventions that have been implicitly incorporated by the hydrological post-processing, while the difference between two predictions decreases. This suggests that human interventions can outweigh the climate variability for the hydrological drought forecasting in the anthropocene, and the predictability for human interventions needs more attention.

Full text can be found here.



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