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Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences An interactive open-access journal of the European Geosciences Union
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Discussion papers
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.
© Author(s) 2019. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Submitted as: research article 30 Sep 2019

Submitted as: research article | 30 Sep 2019

Review status
This discussion paper is a preprint. It is a manuscript under review for the journal Natural Hazards and Earth System Sciences (NHESS).

Linking drought indices to impacts to support drought risk assessment in Liaoning province, China

Yaxu Wang1,2,3, Juan Lv1,2, Jamie Hannaford3,4, Yicheng Wang1,2, Hongquan Sun1,2, Lucy J. Barker3, Miaomiao Ma1,2, Zhicheng Su1,2, and Michael Eastman3 Yaxu Wang et al.
  • 1China Institute of Water Resources and Hydropower Research, Beijing 100038, China
  • 2Research Center on Flood and Drought Disaster Reduction of the Ministry of Water Resources, Beijing 100038, China
  • 3Centre for Ecology & Hydrology, Oxfordshire, OX10 8BB, UK
  • 4Irish Climate Analysis and Research UnitS (ICARUS), Maynooth University, Dublin, W23 F2K8, Ireland

Abstract. Drought is a ubiquitous and reoccurring hazard that has wide ranging impacts on society, agriculture and the environment. Drought indices are vital for characterizing the nature and severity of drought hazards, and there have been extensive efforts to identify the most suitable drought indices for drought monitoring and risk assessments. However, to date, little effort has been made to explore which index(s) best represents drought impacts for various sectors in China. This is a critical knowledge gap, as impacts provide important ‘ground truth’ information. They can be used to demonstrate whether drought indices (used for monitoring or risk assessment) are relevant for identifying impacts, thus highlighting if an area is vulnerable to drought of a given severity. The aim of this study is to explore the link between drought indices and drought impacts, using Liaoning province (northeast China) as a case study due to its history of drought occurrence. To achieve this we use independent, but complementary, methods (correlation and random forest analysis). Using multiple drought indices – Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), Soil Moisture (SoilM) and the Normalized Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI) – and drought impact data (on crop yield, livestock, rural people and the economy) correlation and random forest analysis were used to identify which indices link best to the recorded drought impacts for cities in Liaoning. The results show that the relationship varies between different categories of drought impacts and between cities. SPEI with a 6-month accumulation (SPEI6) had a strong correlation with all categories of drought impacts, while SPI12 had a weak correlation with drought impacts. Of the impact datasets, drought suffering area and drought impact area had a slightly strong relationship with all drought indices in Liaoning province, while population and number of livestock with difficulty in accessing drinking water had weak correlations with the indices. Based on the linkage, drought vulnerability was analyzed using various vulnerability factors. Crop cultivated area was positively correlated to the drought vulnerability for five out of the eight categories of drought impacts, while the total population had a strong negative relationship with drought vulnerability for half the drought impact categories. This study can support drought planning efforts in the region, and provides a methodology for application for other regions of China (and other countries) in the future, as well as providing context for the indices used in drought monitoring applications, so enabling improved preparedness for drought impacts.

Yaxu Wang et al.
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Status: final response (author comments only)
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Yaxu Wang et al.
Yaxu Wang et al.
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