MiKlip first phase: DroughtClip

Prediction of Multi-year Droughts

Drought periods lasting over several years have been documented during the observational period and prominent examples are the “Dust Bowl” in the United States during 1930th or the Sahel drought from 1970 to 1990. In Europe, the Iberian Peninsula drought 2004/2005 (Figure 1), although shorter in duration, had serious consequences for agriculture, electricity production and water resources, as the water reservoirs could not recover for many consecutive years. Due to their severe socio-economic impacts extreme drought events are of major concern under changing climate conditions. The possibility to forecast droughts, its onset, duration and strength years in advance enables decision makers to initiate precautionary measures. e.

DroughtClip - Fig. 1
Figure 1. (a) SPI-9 time series for the Spanish station Badajoz and (b) cumulated precipitation anomalies for the hydrological year (October to June), positive (negative) sums in the end of June in blue (red). (c) SPI-9 for Europe in July 2005, contour lines enclose regions with drought duration (SPI-9 less than -1) of 1 year and longer.

Drought events can be associated, at least partly, to atmospheric and oceanic variability of the climate system. Relations between, for example, El Nino/Southern Oscillation (ENSO), Pacific Decadal Oscillation (PDO), ocean sea surface temperatures or the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and drought events have been detected (Hoerling and Kumar 2003, McCabe 2004, Schubert 2004).


The overall intention of DroughtCLip is to analyze the development of the predictive skill for multi-year droughts on decadal time scales, including the intermediate steps below:

  • Evaluation of different drought indices for existing hindcast experiments from ECHAM/MPIOM, DEPRESYS and corresponding CMIP5 experiments
  • Evaluation of processes governing multi-year droughts
  • Production of decadal hindcasts and forecasts for the entire 20th century
  • Evaluation of drought indices of 20th century decadal hindcasts and forecasts
  • Analysis of historical multi-year droughts, e.g. “Dust Bowl”
  • Evaluation of processes governing multi-year droughts of 20th century decadal hindcasts and forecasts
  • Implementation of vegetation and soil moisture properties into the ECHAM/MPIOM
  • Assessment of a drought forecast
  • Production and analysis of decadal hindcasts and forecasts for the entire 20th century including land-biosphere component


  • Hoerling, M., and A. Kumar, 2003: The Perfect Ocean for Drought. Science, 31, 691-694.
  • McCabe, G. J.,  M. A. Palecki, and J. L. Betancourt, 2004: Pacific and Atlantic Ocean influences on
    multidecadal drought frequency in the United States. Proc. Nat. Acad. Sci., 101, 4136-4141.
  • Schubert S. D., M. J. Suarez, P. J. Region, R. D. Koster, and J. T. Bacmeister, 2004: On the cause of
    the 1930s  Dust Bowl. Science, 303



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Max-Planck-Institut für Meteorologie
Dr. Wolfgang Müller
Dr. Holger Pohlmann
Dr. Frank Sienz