Climate Dynamics

, Volume 48, Issue 1–2, pp 151–168 | Cite as

Intensity–area–duration analysis of droughts in China 1960–2013

  • Jianqing Zhai
  • Jinlong Huang
  • Buda SuEmail author
  • Lige Cao
  • Yanjun Wang
  • Tong Jiang
  • Thomas FischerEmail author


In this study, the intensity, area, and duration of droughts in China are analyzed using the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). The SPI was calculated on monthly data for 530 meteorological stations in China for the period 1960–2013. The time series were analyzed for ten major hydrological regions of China, respectively. The relationships between the intensity and the area of droughts for a specific duration were analyzed by the intensity–area–duration method. The results show that areas with a significant trend in dryness can be found in a band reaching from the southwest to the northeast of China, while areas with significant trends in wetness are especially detected in the northern river basins in recent decades. In addition, for recent years (2000–2013), most of the ten major hydrological regions show opposite trends in the SPI when compared to the whole study period (1960–2013) except for the central and southwestern parts of China. This dryness/wetness trends are related to the intensity and duration of drought events, which have been stronger and lasted longer in the detected dryness band except for some northern river basins. A regional shift of drought centers is found from the northwest to the southeast within Central China. Moreover, a decreasing trend in drought area is observed, which might be related to the regional changes in precipitation pattern associated with the atmosphere–ocean interaction. Changes in the SST of the Tropical Pacific and the Tropical Indian Ocean may have resulted in frequent severe drought events of small areal extent in the central and southwestern parts of China. For the study period, the most severe droughts that covered large areas mainly occurred in the north and west of China during the mid-to-late twentieth century. However, in the early twenty-first century, the most severe droughts were located in the southwest of China covering areas less than 0.7 million km2. Conclusively, drought areas show a decreasing tendency, while more intense droughts of longer duration have been experienced, especially in the south of China, in the last decades.


Drought Intensity Area Duration China 



This study was supported by the National Basic Research Program of China (973Program; Nos. 2012CB955903, 2013CB430205) and the National Natural Science Foundation in China (No. 41571494). The authors also thank the National 1000 Talent program (Y474171) for supporting this work.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Jianqing Zhai
    • 1
    • 3
  • Jinlong Huang
    • 2
    • 4
  • Buda Su
    • 1
    • 2
    • 3
    • 5
    Email author
  • Lige Cao
    • 1
    • 3
  • Yanjun Wang
    • 1
  • Tong Jiang
    • 1
    • 3
  • Thomas Fischer
    • 3
    • 6
    Email author
  1. 1.Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters/School of Remote SensingNUISTNanjingChina
  2. 2.State Key Laboratory of Desert and Oasis Ecology, Xinjiang Institute of Ecology and GeographyChinese Academy of SciencesUrumqiChina
  3. 3.National Climate CenterCMABeijingChina
  4. 4.University of Chinese Academy of SciencesBeijingChina
  5. 5.Potsdam Institute for Climate Impact ResearchPotsdamGermany
  6. 6.Department of GeosciencesEberhard Karls UniversityTübingenGermany

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