Water Resources Management

, Volume 29, Issue 15, pp 5631–5647 | Cite as

A Time-Dependent Drought Index for Non-Stationary Precipitation Series

  • Yixuan Wang
  • Jianzhu Li
  • Ping Feng
  • Rong Hu


In a rapidly changing environment, a greater concern about the establishment and improvement of drought indices is expected. The main goal of this study is to develop and apply a time-dependent Standardized Precipitation Index (SPIt) that takes account of the possible non-stationary behaviors in precipitation records. Summer precipitation observations (1959 ~ 2011) from 21 raingauge stations in the Luanhe River basin are fitted with non-stationary Gamma distributions respectively by means of the Generalized Additive Models in Location, Scale and Shape (GAMLSS). The temporal variability of the distribution’s parameter (related to the mean) is flexibly described by an optimized polynomial function. Based on the non-stationary distribution, the SPIt is calculated and then employed to assess the spatio-temporal characteristics of summer drought in the basin. Results of the non-stationary modeling indicate an overall decreasing trend in the summer precipitation during 1959 ~ 2011, and especially a significant decrease in the period of 2000 to 2011. The SPIt is found to be more robust and reliable compared with the traditional Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). Moreover, remarkable difference is observed between the historical drought assessments of SPIt and SPI in the Luanhe River basin, implying that the non-stationarity of hydrological time series cannot be ignored in drought analyses and forecasts. The proposed SPIt method can be a feasible alternative for drought monitoring under non-stationary conditions, intended to provide a valuable reference for further studies.


Drought Standardized precipitation index Time-dependent standardized precipitation index Non-stationarity GAMLSS 



This work was financially supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China (No. 51479130). The authors thank the Hydrology and Water Resource Survey Bureau of Hebei Province for providing the observed precipitation data.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.State Key Laboratory of Hydraulic Engineering Simulation and SafetyTianjin UniversityTianjinChina

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