Complex influences of meteorological drought time-scales on hydrological droughts in natural basins of the contiguous Unites States

Marina Peña-Gallardo, Sergio M. Vicente-Serrano, Jamie Hannaford, Jorge Lorenzo-Lacruz, Mark Svoboda, Fernando Domínguez-Castro, Marco Maneta, Miquel Tomas-Burguera, Ahmed El Kenawy

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


We analyzed the relationships between meteorological drought and hydrological drought using very dense and diverse network of gauged natural drainage basins across the conterminous U.S. Specifically, this work utilized a dataset of 289 gauging stations, covering the period 1940–2013. Drainage basins were obtained for each gauging station using a digital terrain model. In addition to meteorological data (e.g., precipitation, air temperature and the atmospheric evaporative demand), we obtained a number of topographic, soil and remote sensing variables for each defined drainage basin. A hydrological drought index (the Standardized Streamflow Index; SSI) was computed for each basin and linked to the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), which was used as a metric of climatic drought severity. The relationships between different SPEI time-scales and their corresponding SSI were assessed by means of a Pearson correlation coefficient. Also, the general patterns of response of hydrological droughts to climatic droughts were identified using a principal component analysis. Overall, results demonstrate a positive response of SSI to SPEI at shorter time-scales, with strong seasonality and clear spatial differences. We also assessed the role of some climatic and environmental factors in explaining these different responses using a predictive discriminant analysis. Results indicate that elevation and vegetation coverage are the main drivers of the diverse response of SSI to SPEI time-scales. Similar analyses were made for three sub-periods (1940–1964, 1965–1989 and 1989–2013), whose results confirm considerable differences in the response of SSI to SPEI over the past eighty years.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)611-625
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Hydrology
StatePublished - Jan 2019


  • Climate variability
  • Climatic drought
  • Drought propagation
  • Hydrological drought
  • Natural basins
  • SPEI
  • Time-scales


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