EGU24-9170, updated on 08 Mar 2024
EGU General Assembly 2024
© Author(s) 2024. This work is distributed under
the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.

Analysis of droughts and arid conditions in Central Asia using climate indices

Milena Latinovic, Valeria Selyuzhenok, and Abror Gafurov
Milena Latinovic et al.
  • GFZ German Research Centre for Geosciences, Potsdam, Hydrology, Potsdam, Germany (

Droughts pose significant challenges to water resources, agriculture, and socioeconomic stability, particularly in regions susceptible to climatic extremes such as Central Asia (CA) with its complex topography and diverse ecosystem. In the past several years there has been a substantial decrease in water storage in the region which further could lead to socioeconomic instability. Water is mainly used for irrigation and hydropower production in the region.

In CA, the availability of ground observations is restricted, with most of the measurement stations being outdated since the Soviet era with little or no data sharing between the countries. Consequently, the utilization of widely available remotely sensed data proves advantageous in overcoming these limitations and improving the accuracy of water availability assessment in the region.

CA relies predominantly on water resources derived from the melting of snow and glaciers in the Pamir, Tian Shan, and Hindukush mountains. In the study, we consider the two largest upstream river basins, Amu Darya and Naryn, the eastern headstream of Syr Darya. These two largest rivers in CA are crucial sources of water in the region, supporting agriculture and the ecosystem in the whole of CA.

The study specifically focuses on evaluating snow cover and Snow Water Equivalent (SWE) during the winter months, especially preceding the onset of drought periods, and the Total Water Storage (TWS) in the drought months. The objective is to comprehend and quantify the correlation between these climatic elements and historical droughts, utilizing the Drought Severity Index (DSI) and the widely used Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI).  DSI is based on the TWS value that is derived from the GRACE and GRACE-FO satellite missions. It shows a significant decrease in water storage in both basins since the start of the GRACE mission in 2002, with more intense arid conditions in the last 6 years. SPI-6 and SPI-9 based on precipitation and SWE data, show a slight increase in the trend in the Amu Darya basin, while in Naryn all indices show an increase in drought periods. This indicates that the arid conditions in the summer months in the Amu Darya basins are driven by human-induced water depletion. Finally, all indices can depict severe droughts in 2008, 2011 and 2018 in both basins. The study shows the potential of using globally available TWS data for drought assessment on a regional scale such as in CA.

How to cite: Latinovic, M., Selyuzhenok, V., and Gafurov, A.: Analysis of droughts and arid conditions in Central Asia using climate indices, EGU General Assembly 2024, Vienna, Austria, 14–19 Apr 2024, EGU24-9170,, 2024.