Table of Contents
International Journal of Atmospheric Sciences
Volume 2014, Article ID 508953, 8 pages
Research Article

Analysis of Droughts in the Central Region of South Africa and Their Association with SST Anomalies

Department of Civil Engineering, Central University of Technology, Free State (CUT), 20 President Brand Street, Private Bag Box X20539, Bloemfontein 9300, South Africa

Received 18 June 2014; Revised 1 November 2014; Accepted 3 December 2014; Published 25 December 2014

Academic Editor: Hui Wang

Copyright © 2014 Desalegn C. Edossa et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


The objective of this study was to characterise meteorological droughts in the Central Region of South Africa using Standardised Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and to examine if there is a relationship between drought and El Niño events. The SPEI was used to quantify the precipitation deficit over time and space across the catchment for the time-scales that are important for planning and management of water resources. Based on 12-month time-scale, the total number of drought events identified in the area using SPEI ranged between 13 and 20 during the period of analysis (1952–1999). Considering the effects of event magnitude and duration as severity parameters, the most severe drought event was identified during 1973 followed by 1995 based on 12-month time-scale. Moreover, it was also found that the number of moderate, severe, and extreme drought events identified by SPEI follows increasing trend with decade during the period of analysis. Results of Spearman’s rank correlation test revealed that the trends exhibited by mild (SPEI-3 and SPEI-6), moderate (SPEI-12), severe (SPEI-12), and extreme (SPEI-3) drought categories are statistically significant at 5% significance level. The study also revealed that drought events in the central region of South Africa are preceded by El Niño events in the tropical Pacific (Nino 3.4) with an average lag time of 8 months between the onsets of the two events. It was found that hydrological drought events in the study area lag behind meteorological drought events with an average lag time of 7.4 months. Findings of this study can be used to forecast drought events in the area for the proper planning and management of water resources.