EGU24-15134, updated on 09 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

How far in advance can we skillfully predict meteorological drought indices?

Adel Imamovic1, Dominik Büeler2,3, Maria Pyrina2,4, Vincent Humphrey1, Christoph Spirig1, Lionel Moret1, and Daniela Domeisen4
Adel Imamovic et al.
  • 1MeteoSwiss, Service and Development, Zürich-Flughafen, Switzerland (
  • 2Institute for Atmospheric and Climate Science, ETH Zürich, Switzerland
  • 3Center for Climate Systems Modeling (C2SM), Switzerland
  • 4University of Lausanne, Switzerland

Given the limited skill of precipitation forecasts, the question arises to what extent ensemble forecasting systems can be used for early warning systems that require longer lead times, such as drought early warning. In this study, we use ECMWF’s IFS extended range forecasts, statistically downscaled to a 2 km grid encompassing Switzerland, to quantify the spatially and seasonally stratified predictability of several precipitation statistics. Consistent with existing analyses we find the predictability of extratropical instantaneous precipitation to be limited to week 1. However, when considering accumulated precipitation and the standardized precipitation index (SPI) forecasts, which is commonly used for drought management, the forecasts are skillful well into week 3. This extension in predictability horizon is attributed to the characteristic of accumulated precipitation, which is less sensitive to differences in timing of precipitating systems. The enhanced predictability of SPI enhances the utility of extended range forecasts for monthly drought forecasts. We discuss the practical applicability of these findings in the context of the new Swiss drought early warning and monitoring platform, planned for operations in 2025. Leveraging the enhanced predictability of SPI, this platform stands to benefit from our research outcomes, providing stakeholders with tools for proactive drought management and response strategies. 

How to cite: Imamovic, A., Büeler, D., Pyrina, M., Humphrey, V., Spirig, C., Moret, L., and Domeisen, D.: How far in advance can we skillfully predict meteorological drought indices?, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-15134,, 2024.