oa Interim : Interdisciplinary Journal - Comparison between two meteorological drought indices in the central region of South Africa

Volume 12, Issue 3
  • ISSN : 1684-498X



The objective of this study was to characterize meteorological droughts in the Central Region of South Africa, Modder River Basin, C52A quaternary catchment using two popular drought indices: Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) and Standardized Precipitation-Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and to compare the two indices. Drought events were characterized based on their frequency, duration, magnitude and intensity. The indices were computed for the time-scales that are important for planning and management of water resources, i.e. 3-, 6- and 12-month time-scales. The basic meteorological input data used in the computation of these indices were 57 years (1950-2007) of monthly precipitation and monthly temperature data which were recorded at The Cliff weather station in the quaternary catchment. It was found that both SPI and SPEI responded to drought events in similar fashion in all time-scales. During the analysis period, a total of 37, 26 and 17 drought events were identified in the area based on 3-, 6-, and 12-month times-scales, respectively. Considering event magnitude as severity parameter, results from both indices identified the periods 1984-1985, 1992-1993 and 2003-2005 as the severest drought periods in the area. However, when the effects of both drought duration and magnitude are considered (drought intensity), the most severest drought events were identified during the years 1982/83, 1966 and 1973 based on 3-, 6- and 12-month timescales, respectively. It was concluded that although the SPEI generally exhibits veracity over SPI by including, apart from precipitation, additional meteorological parameter, mean temperature, SPI should be adopted as an appropriate drought monitoring tool in an area, like Africa, where meteorological data are scarce.

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