Drought assessment using a multivariate drought index in the Luanhe River basin of Northern China

  • Qiongfang LiEmail author
  • Pengcheng Li
  • Haoyang Li
  • Meixiu Yu
Original Paper


With climate change and the rapid increase in water demand, droughts, whose intensity, duration and frequency have shown an increasing trend in China over the past decades, are increasingly becoming a critical constraint to China’s sustainable socio-economic development, especially in Northern China, even more so. Therefore, it is essential to develop an appropriate drought assessment approach in China. To propose a suitable drought index for drought assessment, the Luanhe river basin in the northern China was selected as a case study site. Based on the Principal Component Analysis of precipitation, evapotranspiration, soil moisture and runoff, the three latter variables of which were obtained by using the Variable Infiltration Capacity land surface macro-scale hydrology model, a new multivariate drought index (MDI) was formulated, and its thresholds were determined by use of cumulative distribution function. To test the applicability of the newly developed index, the MDI, the standardized precipitation index (SPI) and the palmer drought severity index (PDSI) time series on a monthly scale were computed and compared during 1962–1963, 1968 and 1972 drought events. The results show that the MDI exhibited certain advantages over the PDSI and the SPI, i.e. better assessing drought severity and better reflecting drought evolution. The MDI formulated by this paper could provide a scientific basis for drought mitigation and management, and references for drought assessment elsewhere in China.


Luanhe river basin Variable infiltration capacity model Drought assessment Principal component analysis Multivariate drought index Standardized precipitation index Palmer drought severity index 



Financial support is gratefully acknowledged from the National Science Foundation Commission under Grant No. 41171220, China, the project (2012BAB03B03) sponsored by the Ministry of Sciences and Technology, China, the project (200901045) sponsored by the Ministry of Water Resources, China and the “111” Project under Grant B08048.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  • Qiongfang Li
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Pengcheng Li
    • 1
    • 2
  • Haoyang Li
    • 3
  • Meixiu Yu
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.College of Hydrology and Water ResourcesHohai UniversityNanjingChina
  2. 2.Center for International River Research, School of BusinessHohai UniversityNanjingChina
  3. 3.Research Center for Water Resources Development of Taihu Lake Basin Water Resources Protection BureauShanghaiChina

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