Past and future drought trends, duration, and frequency in the semi-arid Urmia Lake Basin under a changing climate

Behnam Mirgol, Meisam Nazari, Hadi Ramezani Etedali, Kazem Zamanian

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10 Citations (Scopus)
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Although the Urmia Lake has undergone remarkable drought conditions within the past decades mainly due to climate change, drought studies covering the entire Urmia Lake Basin and all drought aspects are lacking. The present study investigated the spatial and temporal drought conditions in the Urmia Lake Basin for the past (1988–2017) and future (2021–2050 and 2051–2080) periods using five general circulation models (GCMs) under the IPCC (Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change) scenarios RCP 2.6, RCP 4.5, and RCP 8.5. The standardized precipitation index (SPI) and standardized precipitation and evapotranspiration index (SPEI) were compared. The SPEI predicted more drought events than the SPI, and it seemed to be a more suitable drought index than the SPI for the basin. In general, the future periods would encounter less drought conditions in terms of significant drought trends and duration than the observed period under all scenarios, but the frequency of quarterly severe drought events in the future periods would be higher than in the observed period. Furthermore, the stations Urmia (western bank) and Tabriz and Maragheh (eastern banks) would face the highest frequency of different types of quarterly drought events in the future periods compared with the observed period. The predicted high frequencies of drought events for the future periods can intensify the current low water level situation of the Urmia Lake, which seriously threatens all types of ecosystems in the basin. Therefore, serious actions need to be taken into account for efficient ecosystem and water resources management in the basin.

Original languageEnglish
Article numbere2009
Number of pages19
JournalMeteorological Applications
Issue number4
Early online date6 Jul 2021
Publication statusPublished - 2021
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits use, distribution and reproduction in any medium, provided
the original work is properly cited.


Funding Information:
We are grateful to the German Federal Environmental Foundation (Deutsche Bundesstiftung Umwelt, DBU) for funding Meisam Nazari during preparation of the manuscript. Open Access funding enabled and organized by Projekt DEAL.


  • drought
  • precipitation
  • SPEI
  • SPI
  • temperature

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Atmospheric Science


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