Climatic Change

, Volume 85, Issue 3–4, pp 453–471 | Cite as

Exceptional drought events over eastern China during the last five centuries

  • Caiming ShenEmail author
  • Wei-Chyung Wang
  • Zhixin Hao
  • Wei Gong


Climate extremes, particularly the droughts sustaining over a prolonged period and affecting extended area (defined as “exceptional drought events”), can have long-lasting effects on economic and social activities. Here we use the Chinese drought/flood proxy data of the past five hundred years to identify the cases of exceptional drought events over eastern China (east of 105°E), and to study their spatial patterns and temporal evolutions. The associated circulations for the contemporary case are analyzed using available meteorological data. Possible linkage of these cases to climatic forcing and natural climate events is also explored. After considering the intensity, duration, and spatial coverage, we identified three exceptional drought events, which occurred in 1586–1589, 1638–1641, and 1965–1966 in chronological order. They were the most severe droughts of last five centuries in eastern China, with more than 40% of affected area and the drought center encountered a significant summer rainfall reduction (about 50% or more). These three droughts all developed first in North China (34–40°N), and then either expanded southward or moved to the Yangtze River Valley (27–34°N) and the northern part of the southeastern coastal area (22–27°N). For the 1965–1966 case, the significant reduction of summer precipitation was caused by a weakening of summer monsoon and an anomalous westward and northward displacement of the western Pacific subtropical high. Our analyses also suggest that these three exceptional drought events might be triggered by large volcanic eruptions and amplified by both volcanic eruptions and El Niño events.


Summer Monsoon Standardize Precipitation Index Volcanic Eruption Pacific Decadal Oscillation Summer Rainfall 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.

Unable to display preview. Download preview PDF.


  1. Adams JB, Mann ME, Ammann CM (2003) Proxy evidence for an El Niño-like response to volcanic forcing. Nature 426:274–278CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Allen MR, Ingram WJ (2002) Constraints on the future changes in climate and the hydrological cycle. Nature 419:224–232CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Bi M (1990) Features and causes of droughts in Northern China in recent 40 years. In Ye D, Huang R (eds) Advances in the disastrous climate research series. Chinese Meteorological Press, Beijing, pp 23–32Google Scholar
  4. Bradley RS, Jones PD (eds) (1995) Climate since 1500. Routledge, LondonGoogle Scholar
  5. Chang C-P, Zhang Y, Li T (2000) Interannual and interdecadal variation of the East Asian summer monsoon rainfall and tropical SSTs: part 1, roles of the subtropical ridge. J Clim 13:4310–4325CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Changnon SA, Changnon JM, Hewings GD (2001) Losses caused by weather and climate extremes: a national index for the United States. Phys Geogr. 22:1–27Google Scholar
  7. Chapman L, Thornes JE (2003) The use of geographical information systems in climatology and meteorology. Prog Phys Geogr 27:313–330CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Chen TC, Yen MC (1994) Interannual variation of the Indian monsoon simulated with NCAR community model: effect of tropical pacific SST. J Clim 7:1403–1415CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Church JA, White NJ, Arblaster JM (2005) Significant decadal-scale impact of volcanic eruptions on sea level and ocean heat content. Nature 438:74–77CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. CNMA (Chinese National Meteorological Administration) (1981) Yearly charts of dryness/wetness in China for the last 500-year period. Chinese Cartographic Publishing House, BeijingGoogle Scholar
  11. Cook ER, Stahle DW, Cleaveland MK (1992) Dendroclimatic evidence from Eastern North America. In: Bradley RS, Jones PD (eds) Climate since 1500. Routledge, London, pp 331–348Google Scholar
  12. Cook ER, Meko DM, Stahle DW, Cleaveland MK (1999) Drought reconstructions for the continental United States. J Clim 12:1145–1162CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Das HP (2000) Monitoring the incidence of large-scale drought in India. In: Wilhite DA (ed) Drought, volume I, a global assessment. Routledge, London, pp 181–195Google Scholar
  14. Ding Y (1991) Monsoons over China. Kluwer Academic Publishers, Dordrecht, p 419Google Scholar
  15. Easterling DR, Meehl GA, Parmesan C, Changnon SA, Karl TR, Mearns LO (2000) Climate extremes: observations, modeling, and impacts. Science 289:2068–2074CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fasullo J (2004) A stratified diagnosis of the Indian monsoon—Eurasian snow cover relationship. J Clim 17:1110–1122CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fu C, Teng T (1988) Climate anomalies in China associated with ENSO. Sci Atmos Sinica (special issue):133–141Google Scholar
  18. Gillett NP, Weaver AJ, Zwiers FW, Wehner MF (2004) Detection of volcanic influence on global precipitation. Geophys Res Lett 31:L12217. doi:10.1029/2004GL020044 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Guo Q (1985) The variations of summer monsoon in East Asia and the rainfall over China. J Trop Meteorol 1:44–52Google Scholar
  20. Guo Q (1994) Monsoon and droughts/floods in China. In: Ding Y (ed) Asian monsoon. China Meteorology Press, Beijing, pp 65–75Google Scholar
  21. Guo Q, Cai J, Shao X, Sha W (2004) Studies on the variations of East Asian summer monsoon during A.D. 1873–2000. Chin J Atmos Sci 28:206–215Google Scholar
  22. Hahn DG, Schukla J (1976) An apparent relationship between Eurasian snow cover and Indian monsoon rainfall. J Atmos Sci 33:2461–2463CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Hayes M, Svoboda M, Wilhite DA (2000) Monitoring drought using the standardized precipitation index. In: Wilhite DA (ed) Drought, volume I, A global assessment. Routledge, London, pp 168–180Google Scholar
  24. Huang R, Wu Y (1989) The influence of ENSO on the summer climate change in China and its mechanism. Adv Atmos Sci 6:21–32CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. IPCC (2002) Workshop report of Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In: Workshop on changes in extreme weather and climate events, Beijing, p 107Google Scholar
  26. Jones PD, Mann ME (2004) Climate over past millennia. Rev Geophys 42:1–42CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Karl TR, Koscielny AJ (1982) Drought in the United States: 1895–1981. J Climatol 2:313–329CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Kiladis GN, Sinha SK (1991) ENSO, monsoon and drought in India. In: Glantz M, Katz RW, Nicholls N (eds) Teleconnections linking worldwide climate anomalies. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 431–458Google Scholar
  29. Lambert FH, Gillett NP, Stone DA, Huntingford C (2005) Attribution studies of observed land precipitation changes with nine coupled models. Geophys Res Lett 32:L18704. doi:10.1029/2005GL023654 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Lau K-M, Weng H (2000) Coherent modes of global SST and summer rainfall over China: an assessment of the regional impacts of the 1997–98 El Niño. J Clim 14:1294–1308CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Lau K-M, Kim K-M, Yang S (2000) Dynamical and boundary forcing characteristics of regional components of the Asian summer monsoon. J Clim 13:2461–2482CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Li Q, Yang S, Kousky VE, Higgins RW, Lau K-M, Xie P (2005) Features of cross-pacific climate shown in the variability of China and US precipitation. Int J Climatol 25:1675–1696CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Liu Y-Q, Ding Y (1992) Influence of El Niño events on weather and climate in China. Acta Meteorol Sin 6:117–131Google Scholar
  34. Liu X, Yanai M (2002) Influence of Eurasian spring snow cover on Asian summer rainfall. Int J Climatol 22:1075–1089CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Liu K-b, Shen C, Louie K-s (2001) A 1000-year history of typhoon landfalls in Guangdong, Southern China, reconstructed from Chinese historical documentary records. Ann Assoc Am Geogr 91:453–464CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Mann ME, Bradley RS, Hughes MK (1998) Global scale tmperature patterns and climate forcing over the past six centuries. Nature 392:779–787CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. Mass CF, Portman DA (1989) Major volcanic eruptions and climate: a critical evaluation. J Clim 2:566–593CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Meehl GA, Arblaster JM (1998) The Asian–Australian monsoon and El Niño – southern oscillation in the NCAR climate system model. J Clim 11:1356–1385CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Parson JM (1970) Peasant rebellions of the late Ming Dynasty. The University of Arizona Press, Tucson, p 292Google Scholar
  40. Parthasarathy B, Munot AA, Kothawale DR (1995) Monthly and seasonal rainfall series for all-India homogeneous regions and meteorological subdivisions: 1871–1994. Contributions from Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology, Research Report RR-065, IndiaGoogle Scholar
  41. Philander SGH (1990) El Niño, La Niña, and the southern oscillation. Academic Press, San Diego, p 293Google Scholar
  42. Phillips ID, McGregor GR (2001) Western European water vapor – Southwest England rainfall associations. J Hydrometeorol 2:505–524CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Qian W, Hu Q, Zhu Y, Lee D-K (2003) Centennial-scale dry-wet variation in East Asia. Clim Dyn 21:77–89CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Quinn WH, Neal VT (1995) The historical record of El Niño events. In: Bradley RS, Jones PD (eds) Climate since 1500. Routledge, London, pp 623–648Google Scholar
  45. Robock A (2000) Volcanic eruptions and climate. Rev Geophys 38:191–219CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Robock A (2002) Pinatubo eruption: the climatic aftermath. Science 295:1242–1244CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Robock A, Mao J (1995) The volcanic signal in surface temperature observations. J Clim 8:1086–1103CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Rodzinski W (1979) A history of China, vol. I. Pergamon Press, Oxford, p 469Google Scholar
  49. Samel AN, Wang WC, Liang XZ (1999) The monsoon rainband over China and relationships with the Eurasian Circulation. J Clim 12:115–131Google Scholar
  50. Shen C, Wang W-C, Gong W, Hao Z (2006) A pacific decadal oscillation record since 1470 AD reconstructed from proxy data of summer rainfall over Eastern China. Geophys Res Lett 33:L03702, doi:10.1029/2005GL024804 CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  51. Shen J, Zhu Z (1982) The intensity of the southwest monsoon and its relationship to the precipitation over the Yangtze river valley. In: Proceeding of symposium on tropical weather in 1980. Science Press, Beijing, pp 120–126Google Scholar
  52. Simmonds I, Bi D, Hope P (1999) Atmospheric water vapor flux and its association with rainfall over China in summer. J Clim 12:1353–1367CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Slingo JM (1999) The Indian summer monsoon and its variability. In: Navarra A (ed) Beyond El Niño: decadal variability in the climate system. Springer, Berlin, pp 103–118Google Scholar
  54. Stahle DW, Cleaveland MK, Blanton DB, Therrell MD, Gay DA (1998) The lost colony and Jamestown droughts. Science 280:564–567CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sun A, Liu X, Gao B (1998) Change trends of extreme climate events in China. Acta Meteorol Sin 12:129–141Google Scholar
  56. Svoboda M et al (2002) The drought monitor. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 83:1181–1190Google Scholar
  57. Tan X (2003) The study of major droughts in China during the past 500 years. J Disaster Prev Mitig Eng 23:77–83Google Scholar
  58. Tan G, Sun Z, Chen H (2003) Diagnosis of summertime floods/droughts and their atmospheric circulation anomalies over North China. Acta Meteorol Sin 17:257–273Google Scholar
  59. Tang Z (1988) The reconstruction of climate in historical times for a small area. In: Zhang J (ed) The reconstruction of climate in China for historical times. Science Press, Beijing, pp 10–17Google Scholar
  60. Tao S, Chen L (1987) A review of recent research on the East Asian summer monsoon in China. In: Chang CP, Krishnamurti TN (eds) Review in monsoon meteorology. Oxford University Press, London p 353Google Scholar
  61. Tao S, Zhu W, Zhao W (1988) Interannual variability of Meiyu rainfall. Sci Atmos Sinica (special issue):13–21Google Scholar
  62. Temple R (2002) The modern world: a joint creation of China and the West. In: Proceedings of the international conference on the review and forecast of Chinese science and technology, Chinese Academy of Engineering and the Chinese Academy of Science, Science Press, Beijing, pp 111–119Google Scholar
  63. Thompson LG, Yao T, Mosley-Thompson E, Davis ME, Henderson KA, Lin P-N (2000) A high-resolution millennial record of the South Asian monsoon from Himalayan ice core. Science 289:1916–1919CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Torrence C, Webster P (1999) Interdecadal changes in the ENSO monsoon system. J Clim 12:2679–2690CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. Vogel C, Laing M, Munnik K (2000) Drought in South Africa, with special reference to the 1980–94 period. In: Wilhite D (ed) Drought, volume 1, a global assessment. Routledge, London, pp 348–366Google Scholar
  66. Wakeman FE Jr. (1985) The great enterprise: the Manchu reconstruction of imperial order in seventeenth-century China, vol. 1. University of California Press, Berkeley, CAGoogle Scholar
  67. Wang PK, Zhang D (1991) Reconstruction of the 18th century precipitation of Nanjing, Suzhou and Hangzhou using the clear and rain records. In: Bradley RS, Jones PD (eds) Climate since 1500. Routledge, London, pp 184–209Google Scholar
  68. Wang PK, Zhang D (1992) Recent studies of the reconstruction of East Asian monsoon climate in the past using historical literature of China. J Meteorol Soc Jpn 70:423–445Google Scholar
  69. Wang S, Zhao Z (1979) An analysis of historical data of droughts and floods in the last 500 years in China. Acta Geogr Sinica 34:329–341Google Scholar
  70. Wang S, Zhao Z (1981) Droughts and floods in China 1470–1979. In: Wigley TML, Ingram MJ, Farmer G (eds) Climate and history. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, pp 271–288Google Scholar
  71. Wang W-C, Portman D, Gong G, Zhang P, Karl T (1992) Beijing summer temperatures since1724. In: Bradley RS, Jones PD (eds) Climate since 1500. Routledge, London, pp 210–223Google Scholar
  72. Wang B, Wu R, Fu X (2000a) Pacific–East Asian teleconnection: how does ENSO affect East Asian climate? J Clim 13:1517–1536CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  73. Wang S, Ye J, Qian W (2000b) Predictability of drought in China. In: Wilhite DA (ed) Drought, volume I, a global assessment. Routledge, London, pp 100–112Google Scholar
  74. Wang S, Gong D, Zhu J (2001a) Twentieth-century climatic warming in China in the context of the Holocene. Holocene 11:313–321CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  75. Wang B, Wu R, Lau K-M (2001b) Interannual variability of the Asian summer monsoon: contrasts between the Indian and the Western North Pacific–East Asian monsoons. J Clim 14:4073–4090CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  76. Whetton P, Rutherfurd I (1994) Historical ENSO teleconnections in the Eastern hemisphere. Clim Change 28:221–253CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  77. Wilhite DA (2000) Drought as a natural hazard. In: Wilhite DA (ed) Drought, volume I, a global assessment. Routledge, London, pp 3–18Google Scholar
  78. Woodhouse CA, Overpeck JT (1998) 2000 years of drought variability in the central United States. Bull Am Meteorol Soc 79:2693–2714CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  79. Wu R, Wang N (2002) A contrast of the East Asian summer monsoon–ENSO relationship between 1962–1977 and 1978–93. J Clim 15:3266–3279CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  80. Xu Q (1986) The abnormal weather of China for summer 1980 and its relationship with the volcanic eruptions of Mount St. Helens. Acta Meteorol Sin 44:426–432Google Scholar
  81. Yan Z, Ye D, Wang C (1992) Climatic jumps in the flood/drought historical chronology of Central China. Clim Dyn 6:153–160Google Scholar
  82. Zhang D (1988) The method for reconstruction of the dryness/wetness series in China for the last 500 years and its reliability. In: Zhang J (ed) The reconstruction of climate in China for historical times. Science Press, Beijing, pp 18–31Google Scholar
  83. Zhang J, Crowley TJ (1989) Historical climate records in China and reconstruction of past climates (1470–1970). J Clim 2:833–849CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  84. Zhang D, Xue Z (1994) Relationship between El Niño and precipitation patterns in China since 1500 AD. J Appl Meteorol Sci 5:168–175Google Scholar
  85. Zhang J, Zhang X, Xu X (1988) Droughts and floods in China during the recent 500 years. In: Zhang J (ed) The reconstruction of climate in China for historical times. Science Press, Beijing, pp 40–55Google Scholar
  86. Zhang D, Li X, Liang Y (2003a) Supplement of yearly charts of dryness/wetness in China for the last 500-year period, 1993–2000. J Appl Meteorol Sci 14:379–389Google Scholar
  87. Zhang Q, Tao S, Chen L (2003b) The interannual variability of East Asian summer monsoon indices and its association with the pattern of general circulation over East Asia. Acta Meteorol Sin 61:559–568CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  88. Zhao H, Zhang X, Ding Y (1989) The El Niño and the anomalous climate in China. Acta Meteorol Sin 3:471–481Google Scholar
  89. Zhu K (1934) Monsoon in Southeast Asia and rainfall amount in China. Acta Geogr Sinica 1:1–27Google Scholar
  90. Zhou L, Huang R (2003) Research on the characteristics of interdecadal variability of summer climate in China and its possible cause. Climatic and Environmental Research 8:274–290Google Scholar
  91. Zhu Y, Yang X (2003) Relationships between pacific decadal oscillation (PDO) and climate variability in China. Acta Meteorol Sin 61:641–653Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Caiming Shen
    • 1
    Email author
  • Wei-Chyung Wang
    • 1
  • Zhixin Hao
    • 1
  • Wei Gong
    • 1
  1. 1.Atmospheric Sciences Research CenterState University of New YorkAlbanyUSA

Personalised recommendations