Monitoring drought conditions in arid and semiarid regions characterized by high levels of intra- and interannual hydroclimatic variability is a challenging task. Typical drought-monitoring indices that are based on monthly-scale data lack sufficient temporal resolution to detect hydroclimatic extremes and, when used operationally, may not provide adequate indication of drought status. In a case study focused on the Four Corners region of the southwestern United States, the authors used recently standardized World Meteorological Organization climate extremes indices to discern intra-annual hydroclimatic extremes and diagnose potential drought status in conjunction with the simple metric of annual total precipitation. By applying data-reduction methods to a suite of metrics calculated using daily data for 1950-2014, the authors identified five extremes indices that provided additional insight into interannual hydroclimatic variability. Annual time series of these indices revealed anomalous years characterized by shifts in the seasonal distribution of precipitation and in the intensity and frequency of individual events. The driest 4-yr intervals over the study period, characterized by similar annual and interval total precipitation anomalies, represent dramatically different assemblages of index values, which are interpreted as different "flavors" of drought. In turn, it is expected that varying drought impacts on ecosystems, agricultural systems, and water resources would emerge under these different flavors of drought. Results from this study indicate that operational drought monitoring and historical drought assessments in arid and semiarid regions would benefit from the additional insight that daily-based hydroclimatic extremes indices provide, especially in light of expected climate change-driven changes to the hydrologic cycle.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)989-1001
Number of pages13
JournalJournal of Applied Meteorology and Climatology
Issue number4
StatePublished - Apr 1 2017


  • Climate variability
  • Desert meteorology
  • Drought
  • Interannual variability
  • Seasonal variability

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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