This study analyzes the changes in drought patterns in China’s major crop-growing areas over the past 60 years. The analysis was done using both weather station data and Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission (TRMM) Microwave Imager (TMI) rainfall data to calculate the Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI). The results showed that the occurrences of extreme drought were the most serious in recent years in the Southwest China and Sichuan crop-growing areas. The Yangtze River (MLRY) and South China crop-growing areas experienced extreme droughts during 1960–1980, whereas the Northeast China and Huang–Huai–Hai crop-growing areas experienced extreme droughts around 2003. The analysis showed that the SPIs calculated by TRMM data at time scales of one, three, and six months were reliable for monitoring drought in the study regions, but for 12 months, the SPIs calculated by gauge and TRMM data showed less consistency. The analysis of the spatial distribution of droughts over the past 15 years using TMI rainfall data revealed that more than 60% of the area experienced extreme drought in 2011 over the MLRY region and in 1998 over the Huang–Huai–Hai region. The frequency of different intensity droughts presented significant spatial heterogeneity in each crop-growing region.
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