Climate Dynamics

, Volume 48, Issue 11–12, pp 3779–3797 | Cite as

On the coupling between precipitation and potential evapotranspiration: contributions to decadal drought anomalies in the Southwest China

  • Shanlei Sun
  • Haishan Chen
  • Weimin Ju
  • Guojie Wang
  • Ge Sun
  • Jin Huang
  • Hedi Ma
  • Chujie Gao
  • Wenjian Hua
  • Guixia Yan


Under the exacerbation of climate change, climate extreme events, especially for drought, happened frequently and intensively across the globe with greater spatial differences. We used the Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index computed from the routine meteorological observations at 269 sites in Southwest China (SWC) to study the drought characteristics (e.g., extent, duration and intensity) and their decadal variations during 1971–2012. It was revealed that the drought, in responses to the coupling between decadal precipitation and potential evapotranspiration (PET) anomalies, differed among regions and periods. For the entire SWC, droughts in 1970s and 2000s+ was generally stronger than in 1980s and 1990s with respect to their spatial extent, duration and intensity, especially in 2000s+. It was well-known that drought was closely related with a lack of precipitation; however, the impact of atmospheric demand of evaporation (reflected by PET here) on drought (e.g., duration and intensity) was rarely paid enough attentions. To that end, a spatial multi-linear regression approach was proposed in this study for quantifying the contributions of decadal PET and precipitation variations to drought duration and intensity. We have found that the contributions of decadal PET anomalies to drought duration and intensity could exceed those of precipitation, e.g., during 1980s and 1990s in SWC. Additionally, despite the strongest droughts in 2000s+, it was suggested that PET could exert comparable impacts on drought anomalies as precipitation. All these findings implied that PET plays a critical role in drought event, which acts to amplify drought duration and intensity. To sum up, this study stressed the need for enough attentions for PET processes in drought studies.


Drought Potential evapotranspiration Decadal anomaly SPEI Southwest China 



This work was jointly supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (Grant Nos. 41401016, 41375099, 41230422 and 41561124014), the Natural Science Foundation of Jiangsu Province, China (Grant Nos. BK20151525, BK20140998 and BK20160948) and the project funded by the Priority Academic Program Development (PAPD) of Jiangsu Higher Education Institutions.

Supplementary material

382_2016_3302_MOESM1_ESM.docx (1.1 mb)
Supplementary material 1 (DOCX 1155 kb)


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Shanlei Sun
    • 1
    • 2
  • Haishan Chen
    • 1
  • Weimin Ju
    • 3
  • Guojie Wang
    • 4
  • Ge Sun
    • 5
  • Jin Huang
    • 6
  • Hedi Ma
    • 1
  • Chujie Gao
    • 1
  • Wenjian Hua
    • 1
  • Guixia Yan
    • 2
  1. 1.Collaborative Innovation Center on Forecast and Evaluation of Meteorological Disasters/Key Laboratory of Meteorological Disaster, Ministry of Education/International Joint Research Laboratory on Climate and Environment ChangeNanjing University of Information Science and Technology (NUIST)NanjingChina
  2. 2.Applied Hydrometeorological Research InstituteNUISTNanjingChina
  3. 3.International Institute for Earth System Science (ESSI)Nanjing UniversityNanjingChina
  4. 4.School of Geography and Remote SensingNUISTNanjingChina
  5. 5.United States Department of Agriculture Forest ServicesEastern Forest Environmental Threat Assessment Center, Southern Research StationRaleighUSA
  6. 6.School of Applied MeteorologyNUISTNanjingChina

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