Space-time modeling of catchment scale drought characteristics

L. Tallaksen, H. Hisdal, H.A.J. van Lanen

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review

119 Citations (Scopus)


Drought may affect all components of the water cycle and covers commonly a large part of the catchment area. This paper examines drought propagation at the catchment scale using spatially aggregated drought characteristics and illustrates the importance of catchment processes in modifying the drought signal in both time and space. Analysis is conducted using monthly time series covering the period 1961–1997 for the Pang catchment, UK. The time series include observed rainfall and groundwater recharge, head and discharge simulated by physically-based soil water and groundwater models. Drought events derived separately for each unit area and variable are combined to yield catchment scale drought characteristics. The study reveals relatively large differences in the spatial and temporal characteristics of drought for the different variables. Meteorological droughts cover frequently the whole catchment; and they are more numerous and last for a short time (1–2 months). In comparison, droughts in recharge and hydraulic head cover typically a smaller area and last longer (4–5 months). Hydraulic head and groundwater discharge exhibit similar drought characteristics, which can be expected in a groundwater fed catchment. Deficit volume is considered a robust measure of the severity of a drought event over the catchment area for all variables; whereas, duration is less sensitive, particular for rainfall. Spatial variability in drought characteristics for groundwater recharge, head and discharge are primarily controlled by catchment properties. It is recommended not to use drought area separately as a measure of drought severity at the catchment scale, rather it should be used in combination with other drought characteristics like duration and deficit volume
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)363-372
JournalJournal of Hydrology
Issue number3-4
Publication statusPublished - 2009


  • groundwater
  • propagation
  • pang
  • uk


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