Characterization of future drought conditions in the Lower Mekong River Basin

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This study evaluates future changes to drought characteristics in the Lower Mekong River Basin using climate model projections. The Lower Mekong Basin (LMB), covering Thailand, Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam, is vulnerable to increasing droughts. Univariate analysis was employed in this study to compare drought characteristics associated with different return periods for the historical period 1964–2005 and future scenarios (RCP 4.5 2016–2057, RCP 4.5 2058–2099, RCP 8.5 2016–2057 and RCP 8.5 2058–2099). Because a single drought event is defined by several correlated characteristics, drought risk assessment by a multivariate analysis was deemed appropriate, and a multivariate analysis of droughts was conducted using copula functions to investigate the differences in the trivariate joint occurrence probabilities of the historical period and future scenarios. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) was selected as the drought index because of its ability to detect and compare metrological droughts across time and space scales. Historical precipitation data from 1964 to 2005 and future precipitation projections from 2016 to 2099 for 15 global circulation models (GCMs) obtained from the NASA Earth Exchange Global Daily Downscaled Projections (NEX-GDDP) dataset were employed. In all future scenarios, the Lower LMB and 3S subbasins were expected to experience more severe and intense droughts. The multivariate drought risk assessment revealed an increase in drought risks in the LMB. However, the Chi-Mun subbasin may experience an alleviation of future drought characteristics. Because the basin was expected to experience an increase in average monthly precipitation in most months, the variability in magnitude suggested that the LMB region requires adaptation strategies to address future drought occurrences.

Drought frequency analysis, Future projections, Copula, Lower Mekong River Basin