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Article

Changing Causes of Drought in the Urmia Lake Basin—Increasing Influence of Evaporation and Disappearing Snow Cover

1
Department of Geography and Regional Science, University of Graz, 8010 Graz, Austria
2
Climate Research Institute, Atmospheric Science and Meteorological Research Center, Mashhad 91735-676, Iran
*
Author to whom correspondence should be addressed.
Academic Editor: Alina Barbulescu
Water 2021, 13(22), 3273; https://doi.org/10.3390/w13223273
Received: 9 October 2021 / Revised: 13 November 2021 / Accepted: 15 November 2021 / Published: 18 November 2021
The water level of the Urmia Lake Basin (ULB), located in the northwest of Iran, started to decline dramatically about two decades ago. As a result, the area has become the focus of increasing scientific research. In order to improve understanding of the connections between declining lake level and changing local drought conditions, three common drought indices are employed to analyze the period 1981–2018: The Standard Precipitation Index (SPI), the Standard Precipitation-Evaporation Index (SPEI), and the Standardized Snow Melt and Rain Index (SMRI). Although rainfall is a significant indicator of water availability, temperature is also a key factor since it determines rates of evapotranspiration and snowmelt. These different processes are captured by the three drought indices mentioned above to describe drought in the catchment. Therefore, the main objective of this paper is to provide a comparative analysis of drought over the ULB by incorporating different drought indices. Since there is not enough long-term observational data of sufficiently high density for the ULB region, ECMWF Reanalysis data version 5(ERA5) has been used to estimate SPI, SPEI, and SMRI drought indicators. These are shown to work well, with AUC-ROC > 0.9, in capturing different classes of basin drought characteristics. The results show a downward trend for SPEI and SMRI (but not for SPI), suggesting that both evaporation and lack of snowmelt exacerbate droughts. Owing to the increasing temperatures in the basin and the decrease in snowfall, drought events have become particularly pronounced in the SPEI and SMRI time series since 1995. No significant SMRI drought was detected prior to 1995, thus indicating that sufficient snowfall was available at the beginning of the study period. The study results also reveal that the decrease in lake water level from 2010 to 2018 was not only caused by changes in the water balance components, but also by unsustainable water management. View Full-Text
Keywords: Urmia Lake Basin; drought; climate change; snow cover; evapotranspiration; ERA5; extremes Urmia Lake Basin; drought; climate change; snow cover; evapotranspiration; ERA5; extremes
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MDPI and ACS Style

Habibi, M.; Babaeian, I.; Schöner, W. Changing Causes of Drought in the Urmia Lake Basin—Increasing Influence of Evaporation and Disappearing Snow Cover. Water 2021, 13, 3273. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13223273

AMA Style

Habibi M, Babaeian I, Schöner W. Changing Causes of Drought in the Urmia Lake Basin—Increasing Influence of Evaporation and Disappearing Snow Cover. Water. 2021; 13(22):3273. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13223273

Chicago/Turabian Style

Habibi, Maral, Iman Babaeian, and Wolfgang Schöner. 2021. "Changing Causes of Drought in the Urmia Lake Basin—Increasing Influence of Evaporation and Disappearing Snow Cover" Water 13, no. 22: 3273. https://doi.org/10.3390/w13223273

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