Complex influences of meteorological drought time-scales on hydrological droughts in natural basins of the contiguous Unites States
We analyzed the relationships between meteorological drought and hydrological drought using very dense and diverse network of gauged natural drainage basins across the conterminous U.S. Specifically, this work utilized a dataset of 289 gauging stations, covering the period 1940–2013. Drainage basins were obtained for each gauging station using a digital terrain model. In addition to meteorological data (e.g., precipitation, air temperature and the atmospheric evaporative demand), we obtained a number of topographic, soil and remote sensing variables for each defined drainage basin. A hydrological drought index (the Standardized Streamflow Index; SSI) was computed for each basin and linked to the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), which was used as a metric of climatic drought severity. The relationships between different SPEI time-scales and their corresponding SSI were assessed by means of a Pearson correlation coefficient. Also, the general patterns of response of hydrological droughts to climatic droughts were identified using a principal component analysis. Overall, results demonstrate a positive response of SSI to SPEI at shorter time-scales, with strong seasonality and clear spatial differences. We also assessed the role of some climatic and environmental factors in explaining these different responses using a predictive discriminant analysis. Results indicate that elevation and vegetation coverage are the main drivers of the diverse response of SSI to SPEI time-scales. Similar analyses were made for three sub-periods (1940–1964, 1965–1989 and 1989–2013), whose results confirm considerable differences in the response of SSI to SPEI over the past eighty years.