Huai River Basin (HRB) is an important food and industrial production area and a frequently drought-affected basin in eastern China. It is necessary to consider the future drought development for reducing the impact of drought disasters. Three global circulation models (GCMs) from Coupled Model Intercomparison Project phase 5 (CMIP5), such as CNRM-CM5 (CNR), HadGEM2-ES (Had) and MIROC5 (MIR), were used to assessment the future drought conditions under two Representative Concentration Pathways (RCPs) scenarios, namely, RCP4.5 and RCP8.5. The standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI), statistical method, Mann-Kendall test, and run theory were carried out to study the variations of drought tendency, frequency, and characteristics and their responses to climate change. The research showed that the three CMIP5 models differ in describing the future seasonal and annual variations of precipitation and temperature in the basin and thus lead to the differences in describing drought trends, frequency, and drought characteristics, such as drought severity, drought duration, and drought intensity. However, the drought trend, frequency, and characteristics in the future are more serious than the history. The drought frequency and characteristics tend to be strengthened under the scenario of high concentration of RCP8.5, and the drought trend is larger than that of low concentration of RCP4.5. The lower precipitation and the higher temperature are the main factors affecting the occurrence of drought. All three CMIP5 models show that precipitation would increase in the future, but it could not offset the evapotranspiration loss caused by significant temperature rise. The serious risk of drought in the future is still higher. Considering the uncertainty of climate models for simulation and prediction, attention should be paid to distinguish the effects of different models in the future drought assessment.
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