Combined statistical and spatially distributed hydrological model for evaluating future drought indices in Virginia
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Study region: Virginia, United States. Study focus: Climate change is expected to impact the intensity and severity of droughts; therefore, it is necessary to simulate future drought conditions using temperature and precipitation projections and hydrological models to derive reliable hydrological variables and drought indices. The objective of this study was to evaluate climate change influences on future drought potential and water resources in five major river basins in Virginia. In this study, the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT) and Coupled Model Intercomparison Project Phase 5 (CMIP5) climate models were used to compute a Standardized Soil Moisture Index (SSI), a Multivariate Standardized Drought Index (MSDI), and a Modified Palmer Drought Severity Index (MPDSI) for both historic and future periods. The drought conditions were evaluated, and their occurrences were determined at river basin scales. New hydrological insights for the region: The results of the ensemble mean of SSI indicated that there was an overall increase in agricultural drought occurrences projected in the New (> 1.3 times) and Rappahannock (> 1.13 times) river basins due to increases in evapotranspiration and surface and groundwater flow. However, MSDI and MPDSI exhibited a decrease in projected future drought, despite increases in precipitation, which suggests that it is essential to use hybridmodeling approaches and to interpret application-specific drought indices that consider both precipitation and temperature changes.