Drought monitoring needs comprehensive and integrated meteorological and hydrologic data. However, such data are generally not available in extensive catchments. The present study aimed to analyze drought in the central plateau catchment of Iran using the terrestrial water storage deficit index (TSDI). In this arid catchment, the meteorological and hydrologic observed data are scarce. First, the time series of terrestrial water storage changes (TWSC) obtained from the gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE) was calculated and validated by the water budget output. Then, the studied area was divided into semi-arid, arid, and hyper-arid zones and the common drought indices of SPI and RDIe within a timescale of 3, 6, and 12 months were calculated to compare the results obtained from the TSDI by using the meteorological data of 105 synoptic stations. Based on the results, the study area experienced a drought with extreme severity and expansion during 2007–2008. The drought spatial distribution map obtained from three indices indicated good conformity. Based on the maps, the severity, duration, and frequency of drought in the semi-arid zone were greater than that in other zones, while no significant drought occurred in the hyper-arid zone. Furthermore, the temporal distribution of drought in all three zones indicated that the TSDI could detect all short- and long-term droughts. The study results showed that the TSDI is a reliable, integrated, and comprehensive index. Using this index in arid areas with little field data led to some valuable results for planning and water resource management.
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