Global meteorological drought Part 2: Seasonal forecasts

Dutra E, Pozzi W, Wetterhall F, Di Giuseppe F, Magnusson L, Naumann G, Barbosa P, Vogt J, Pappenberger F
Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 18, 2669-2678, 2014

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Global seasonal forecasts of meteorological drought using the standardized precipitation index (SPI) are produced using two data sets as initial conditions: the Global Precipitation Climatology Centre (GPCC) and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF) ERA-Interim reanalysis (ERAI); and two seasonal forecasts of precipitation, the most recent ECMWF seasonal forecast system and climatologically based ensemble forecasts. The forecast evaluation focuses on the periods where precipitation deficits are likely to have higher drought impacts, and the results were summarized over different regions in the world. The verification of the forecasts with lead time indicated that generally for all regions the least reduction on skill was found for (i) long lead times using ERAI or GPCC for monitoring and (ii) short lead times using ECMWF or climatological seasonal forecasts. The memory effect of initial conditions was found to be 1 month of lead time for the SPI-3, 4 months for the SPI-6 and 6 (or more) months for the SPI-12. Results show that dynamical forecasts of precipitation provide added value with skills at least equal to and often above that of climatological forecasts. Furthermore, it is very difficult to improve on the use of climatological forecasts for long lead times. Our results also support recent questions of whether seasonal forecasting of global drought onset was essentially a stochastic forecasting problem. Results are presented regionally and globally, and our results point to several regions in the world where drought onset forecasting is feasible and skilful.