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Quantifying the reliability of four global datasets for drought monitoring over a semiarid region


Drought is one of the most relevant natural disasters, especially in arid regions such as Iran. One of the requirements to access reliable drought monitoring is long-term and continuous high-resolution precipitation data. Different climatic and global databases are being developed and made available in real time or near real time by different agencies and centers; however, for this purpose, these databases must be evaluated regionally and in different local climates. In this paper, a near real-time global climate model, a data assimilation system, and two gridded gauge-based datasets over Iran are evaluated. The ground truth data include 50 gauges from the period of 1980 to 2010. Drought analysis was carried out by means of the Standard Precipitation Index (SPI) at 2-, 3-, 6-, and 12-month timescales. Although the results show spatial variations, overall the two gauge-based datasets perform better than the models. In addition, the results are more reliable for the western portion of the Zagros Range and the eastern region of the country. The analysis of the onsets of the 6-month moderate drought with at least 3 months’ persistence indicates that all datasets have a better performance over the western portion of the Zagros Range, but display poor performance over the coast of the Caspian Sea. Base on the results of this study, the Modern-Era Retrospective Analysis for Research and Applications (MERRA) dataset is a preferred alternative for drought analysis in the region when gauge-based datasets are not available.

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