The 2009/10 Drought in China: Possible Causes and Impacts on Vegetation

Barriopedro D., Gouveia C.M., Trigo R.M., Wang L.
Jounral fo Hydrometeorology, Vol 13. DOI: 10.1175/JHM-D-11-074.1

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Several provinces of China experienced an intense drought episode during 2009 and 2010. The drought was particularly severe in southwestern and northern China, where the accumulated precipitation from May 2009 to April 2010 was about 25% less than normal. The decline of accumulated precipitation over northern China was mostly noticeable during the summer season of 2009 and it was comparable to recent dry episodes. The southwestern China drought resulted from a sequence of dry months from summer 2009 to winter 2010, corresponding to the driest event since at least 1951. The suppression of rainfall in summer over both regions was in agreement with a weakened broad-scale South Asian summer monsoon, possibly influenced by an El Niņo developing phase, whereas the extremely negative phases of the Arctic Oscillation during the winter of 2010 may have contributed to the persistence of the drought in southwestern China. The assessment of the associated impacts indicates that water reservoirs were severely affected with a ~20% reduction in the nationwide hydroelectrical production during the drought event. Furthermore, an analysis of the normalized difference vegetation index data reveals that large cropland sectors of northern and eastern China experienced up to 8 months of persistently stressed vegetation between May 2009 and July 2010, while southwestern China was relatively less affected. Such different regional vegetative responses are interpreted in terms of the land-cover type, agriculture management, and their dependence on seasonal precipitation and water availability for irrigation.