In this study, to improve the efficiency of the original Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI_original), we coupled the Soil and Water Assessment tool (SWAT) and PDSI_original to construct a drought index called PDSI_SWAT. The constructed PDSI_SWAT is applied in the Wei River Basin (WRB) of China during 1960–2012. The comparison of the PDSI_SWAT with four other commonly used drought indices reveals the effectiveness of the PDSI_SWAT in describing the drought propagation processes in WRB. The whole WRB exhibits a dry trend, with more significant trends in the northern, southeastern and western WRB than the remaining regions. Furthermore, the drought frequencies show that drought seems to occur more likely in the northern part than the southern part of WRB. The principle component analysis method based on the PDSI_SWAT reveals that the whole basin can be further divided into three distinct sub-regions with different drought variability, i.e., the northern, southeastern and western part. Additionally, these three sub-regions are also consistent with the spatial pattern of drought shown by the drought frequency. The wavelet transform analysis method indicates that the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) events have strong impacts on inducing droughts in the WRB. The results of this study could be beneficial for a scientific water resources management and drought assessment in the current study area and also provide a valuable reference for other areas with similar climatic characteristics.
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