Flash Drought Response to Precipitation and Atmospheric Evaporative Demand in Spain

Noguera I., Domínguez-Castro F., Vicente-Serrano S.M. (2021). Flash Drought Response to Precipitation and Atmospheric Evaporative Demand in Spain. Atmosphere 12, 165. doi: 10.3390/atmos12020165

Flash drought is the result of strong precipitation deficits and/or anomalous increases in atmospheric evaporative demand (AED), which triggers a rapid decline in soil moisture and stresses vegetation over short periods of time. However, little is known about the role of precipitation and AED in the development of flash droughts. For this paper, we compared the standardized precipitation index (SPI) based on precipitation, the evaporative demand drought index (EDDI) based on AED, and the standardized evaporation precipitation index (SPEI) based on the differences between precipitation and AED as flash drought indicators for mainland Spain and the Balearic Islands for 1961–2018. The results show large differences in the spatial and temporal patterns of flash droughts between indices. In general, there was a high degree of consistency between the flash drought patterns identified by the SPI and SPEI, with the exception of southern Spain in the summer. The EDDI showed notable spatial and temporal differences from the SPI in winter and summer, while it exhibited great coherence with the SPEI in summer. We also examined the sensitivity of the SPEI to AED in each month of the year to explain its contribution to the possible development of flash droughts. Our findings showed that precipitation is the main driver of flash droughts in Spain, although AED can play a key role in the development of these during periods of low precipitation, especially in the driest areas and in summer.

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