Spatiotemporal characterization of current and future droughts in the High Atlas basins (Morocco)

  • Wiam Zkhiri
  • Yves Tramblay
  • Lahoucine Hanich
  • Lionel Jarlan
  • Denis Ruelland
Original Paper


Over the past decades, drought has become a major concern in Morocco due to the importance of agriculture in the economy of the country. In the present work, the standardized precipitation index (SPI) is used to monitor the evolution, frequency, and severity of droughts in the High Atlas basins (N’Fis, Ourika, Rhéraya, Zat, and R’dat), located south of Marrakech city. The spatiotemporal characterization of drought in these basins is performed by computing the SPI with precipitation spatially interpolated over the catchments. The Haouz plain, located downstream of these basins, is strongly dependent on water provided by the mountain ranges, as shown by the positive correlations between the normalized difference vegetation index (NDVI) in the plain and the 3, 6, and 12-month SPI in the High Atlas catchments. On the opposite, no significant correlations are found with piezometric levels of the Haouz groundwater due to intensified pumping for irrigation in the recent decades. A relative SPI index was computed to evaluate the climate change impacts on drought occurrence, based on the projected precipitation (2006–2100) from five high-resolution CORDEX regional climate simulations, under two emission scenarios (RCP 4.5 and RCP 8.5). These models show a decrease in precipitation towards the future up to − 65% compared to the historical period. In terms of drought events, the future projections indicate a strong increase in the frequency of SPI events below − 2, considered as severe drought condition.


Funding information

The financial support provided by the LMI TREMA laboratory and IRD-ARTS studentship is gratefully acknowledged. Thanks are due to the hydrological basin agency Tensift (ABHT) and to the LMI TREMA for providing the data.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Austria, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Wiam Zkhiri
    • 1
  • Yves Tramblay
    • 2
  • Lahoucine Hanich
    • 1
  • Lionel Jarlan
    • 3
  • Denis Ruelland
    • 2
  1. 1.Laboratoire Georessources, Faculté des Sciences et TechniquesUniversité Cadi AyyadMarrakechMorocco
  2. 2.HSM (Univ. Montpellier, CNRS, IRD)MontpellierFrance
  3. 3.CESBIO (IRD, CNRS, CNES, UPS)ToulouseFrance

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