National Drought Mitigation Center


Visiting scholar Meixiu Yu analyzes Chinese drought of 2009-10

September 11, 2012

Severe drought in 2009 and 2010 in southwest China caught the attention of Meixiu Yu, a Ph.D. student in hydrology and water resources at Hohai University in China. After investigating various options, she ended up spending a year as a visiting scholar at the National Drought Mitigation Center at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. She will return to China on Sept. 20.

Before the Chinese drought of 2009-2010, she’d been focused on the impacts of the Three Gorges Reservoir on the downstream hydrologic regimes of the Yangtze River in China, so drought represented an almost-new field of study for her.

While at the NDMC, she coauthored a paper with her advisor in China and with NDMC researchers on the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index for China from 1951 through 2010. Using precipitation and temperature to compute the SPEI for 609 locations across the country, Yu found that drought in China increased dramatically beginning in the 1990s, and that the area of the country in drought increased by an average of 3.7 percent per decade during the decades she examined.

Yu is also working on aspects of the Vegetation Drought Response Index (VegDRI), learning about how the satellite-derived map showing drought’s effects on vegetation contributes to drought monitoring.

“People in NDMC are very nice and helpful. They will do their best to help you even if they are very busy,” Yu said. “The NDMC provides a good environment to do research. I learned about a lot of drought indexes -- SPI, PDSI, SPEI, SSI, SRI, VegDRI ...”

Yu envisions that her dissertation will eventually focus on a compound drought index for China that incorporates different indicators. “Since my background is hydrology and water resources, and the Xin'anjiang model is created by Hohai University, I hope I could do an integrated drought index that is coupled with the Xin'anjiang model in the future,” Yu said. The Xin-anjiang model is a rainfall-runoff, distributed, basin model for use in humid and semi-humid regions, used to model flooding in China.

Yu’s hometown is Zhejiang Province, which she described as one of the most developed provinces in China. “They say you can meet people from Zhejiang Province all over the world,” she said. “It’s not big, but people are very clever. They are interested in business.”

“This was my first time going abroad,” Yu said. “I spent a whole year in the USA.” She met people in many ways besides work, including a trip to Yellowstone National Park. Closer to Lincoln, Yu and friends enjoyed a trip to the Arbor Day Farm in Nebraska City. “We picked a lot of apples,” she said.