Natural Hazards

, Volume 83, Issue 3, pp 1567–1582 | Cite as

Drought indices as drought predictors in the south-central USA

  • Robert V. Rohli
  • Nazla Bushra
  • Nina S. N. Lam
  • Lei Zou
  • Volodymyr Mihunov
  • Margaret A. Reams
  • Jennifer E. Argote
Original Paper


Drought is among the most insidious types of natural disasters and can have devastating economic and human health impacts. This research analyzes the relationship between two readily accessible drought indices—the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) and Palmer Hydrologic Drought Index (PHDI)—and the damage incurred by such droughts in terms of monetary loss, over the 1975–2010 time period on monthly basis, for five states in the south-central USA. Because drought damage in the Spatial Hazards Events and Losses Database for the United States (SHELDUS™) is reported at the county level, statistical downscaling techniques were used to estimate the county-level PDSI and PHDI. Correlation analysis using the downscaled indices suggests that although relatively few county–months contain drought damage reports, drought indices can be useful predictors of drought damage at the monthly temporal scale extended to 12 months and at the county-level spatial scale. The varying time lags between occurrence of drought and reporting of damage, perhaps due to varying resilience to drought intensity and duration by crop types across space, along with differing irrigation schedules and adaptation measures of the community to drought over space and time, may contribute to weakened correlations. These results present a reminder of the complexities of anticipating the effects of drought, but they contribute to the effort to improve our ability to mitigate the effects of incipient drought.


Drought damage Palmer Drought Severity Index Palmer Hydrologic Drought Index Statistical downscaling SHELDUS™ South-central USA 



This material is based upon work supported by a research grant from United States Geological Survey/South Central Climate Science Center (Award No. G14AP00087). Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the funding agencies.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2016

Authors and Affiliations

  • Robert V. Rohli
    • 1
  • Nazla Bushra
    • 1
  • Nina S. N. Lam
    • 2
  • Lei Zou
    • 2
  • Volodymyr Mihunov
    • 2
  • Margaret A. Reams
    • 2
  • Jennifer E. Argote
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Geography and AnthropologyLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA
  2. 2.Department of Environmental SciencesLouisiana State UniversityBaton RougeUSA

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