Monday, January 26, 2015

National Drought Mitigation Center

Comparison of Major Drought Indices: Deciles

Description: Groups monthly precipitation occurrences into deciles so that, by definition, “much lower than normal” weather cannot occur more often than 20% of the time.

Who uses it: Australia.

Pros: Provides an accurate statistical measurement of precipitation.

Cons: Accurate calculations require a long climatic data record.

Developed by: Gibbs and Maher, 1967.

Decile Classifications

deciles 1-2: lowest 20%

much below normal

deciles 3-4: next lowest 20%

below normal

deciles 5-6: middle 20%

near normal

deciles 7-8: next highest 20%

above normal

deciles 9-10: highest 20%

much above normal

Arranging monthly precipitation data into deciles is another drought-monitoring technique. It was developed by Gibbs and Maher (1967) to avoid some of the weaknesses within the “percent of normal” approach. The technique they developed divided the distribution of occurrences over a long-term precipitation record into tenths of the distribution. They called each of these categories a decile. The first decile is the rainfall amount not exceeded by the lowest 10% of the precipitation occurrences. The second decile is the precipitation amount not exceeded by the lowest 20% of occurrences. These deciles continue until the rainfall amount identified by the tenth decile is the largest precipitation amount within the long-term record. By definition, the fifth decile is the median, and it is the precipitation amount not exceeded by 50% of the occurrences over the period of record. The deciles are grouped into five classifications.

The decile method was selected as the meteorological measurement of drought within the Australian Drought Watch System because it is relatively simple to calculate and requires less data and fewer assumptions than the Palmer Drought Severity Index (Smith et al., 1993). In this system, farmers and ranchers can only request government assistance if the drought is shown to be an event that occurs only once in 20–25 years (deciles 1 and 2 over a 100-year record) and has lasted longer than 12 months (White and O’Meagher, 1995). This uniformity in drought classifications, unlike a system based on the percent of normal precipitation, has assisted Australian authorities in determining appropriate drought responses. One disadvantage of the decile system is that a long climatological record is needed to calculate the deciles accurately.

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