Analysis of Long Term Drought Severity Characteristics and Trends across Semiarid Botswana using Two Drought Indices

Semiarid areas exhibit high climate variability whose frequency has increased in the recent past. This variability ultimately influences the spatial and temporal characteristics of droughts which in turn require a reliable drought index that can adequately characterize drought both in time and space. This study applied two drought indices viz.: Standardized precipitation index (SPI) and Standardized precipitation and evapotranspiration index (SPEI) at timescales of 1-, 3-, 6-, 12-, 18- and 24-months for a period of 1960–2016. The monotonic changes in drought severity were studied using Mann-Kendall Z-statistic and Sen's slope estimator. Both drought indices were able to detect the historical drought events of 1961/62–1965/66, 1980/81–1986/87, 1991/92, 2001/02–2005/06, 2009/10–2012/13 and 2014/15–2015/16. These events mainly coincided with El Niño years, hence the influence of El Niño southern oscillation (ENSO) on drought occurrence could not be ruled out. The drought evolutions were characterized by low frequency and longer durations at timescales of 12-, 18-, and 24-months. It was also observed that SPI overestimated drought severity during dry winter months while SPEI showed higher spatial coverage of drought vulnerability compared to SPI. Spatial and temporal trends of droughts showed significant wetting trends during the period 1960–1979 while during the entire period it was mostly drying tendencies after 1979/80. Pandamatenga and Shakawe showed higher vulnerability towards drying conditions during the period of analysis. The association between SPI and SPEI was also investigated using Spearman's rank correlation. Results from this analysis indicate that SPI accounts for >50% of the variations in SPEI and the association was strongest (96%) at 12-months timescale. The influence of temperature on drought evolutions was demonstrated at Francistown with SPI recording positive trends and SPEI negative ones. This study concludes that with the ongoing global warming, SPEI proves more robust in characterizing droughts in semiarid areas. It is hoped that findings from this study will augment ongoing efforts of mitigating negative impacts of increased incidences of climate variability especially in areas of agriculture and water resource management.
El Niño; Mann-Kendall Z-statistic; Spearman's rank correlation; Standardized precipitation index; Standardized precipitation and evapotranspiration index; Trend analysis
Byakatonda, J., Parida, B. P., Moalafhi, D. B., & Kenabatho, P. K. (2018). Analysis of long term drought severity characteristics and trends across semiarid Botswana using two drought indices. Atmospheric research, 213, 492-508.