Assessment of CFSR, ERA-Interim, JRA-55, MERRA-2, NCEP-2 reanalysis data for drought analysis over China

  • Shu Chen
  • Thian Yew GanEmail author
  • Xuezhi Tan
  • Dongguo Shao
  • Jianqiang Zhu


Five reanalysis datasets—National Centers for Environmental Prediction reanalysis II (NCEP-2), NCEP Climate Forecast System Reanalysis (CFSR), European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) Interim Reanalysis (ERA-Interim), Japanese 55-year Reanalysis Project (JRA-55), and National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Modern Era Reanalysis for Research and Applications Version-2 (MERRA-2)—are selected to estimate meteorological droughts of China using three drought indices—the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), and Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI). Drought indices, drought areas and drought severity estimated for China from these reanalysis datasets are assessed against corresponding results obtained from observed climate dataset of China using Nash–Sutcliffe efficiency (NSE), correlation coefficient, and the analysis of time series. Further, temperature, precipitation and potential evapotranspiration data of the five reanalysis datasets are also compared against the observed dataset. Drought indices and drought areas estimated from reanalysis datasets are generally more representative of historical droughts that had occurred in eastern China than in western China. However, the performance of these five reanalysis datasets in representing the drought severity is unsatisfactory in both western China and eastern China. SPEI is generally more representative than PDSI and SPI partly because temperature and potential evapotranspiration data of reanalysis datasets are generally better than precipitation data. PDSI is also based on a supply-and-demand model of soil moisture but estimating the demand of soil moisture is complicated. Therefore, SPEI is preferred over PDSI and SPI as the drought index to characterize the meteorological droughts of China. Climate data and meteorological drought characteristics of eastern China are best represented by JRA-55, while that of western China are best represented by MERRA-2. From 1980 to 2014, statistically significant increasing trends in annual drought areas and drought severity are detected from JRA-55 and observed climate datasets in eastern China, but they are only detected from observed dataset in western China.


Assessment of reanalysis datasets Drought analysis Palmer Drought Severity Index Standardized Precipitation Index Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index 



The first author was financially supported by the National Key Research and Development Program of China (nos. 2016YFC0402203 and 2107YFC0405302), National Natural Science Foundation of China (nos. 51509009 and 51709204), the China Scholarship Council (CSC) and partly by the University of Alberta, Canada.


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© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Water Resources DepartmentChangjiang River Scientific Research InstituteWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  2. 2.Department of Civil and Environmental EngineeringUniversity of AlbertaEdmontonCanada
  3. 3.Department of Water Resources and EnvironmentSun Yat-sen UniversityGuangzhouPeople’s Republic of China
  4. 4.State Key Laboratory of Water Resources and Hydropower Engineering ScienceWuhan UniversityWuhanPeople’s Republic of China
  5. 5.Hubei Provincial Key Laboratory on Waterlogged Disaster and Wetland AgricultureYangtze UniversityJingzhouPeople’s Republic of China

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