Multi-year prediction of European summer drought conditions for the agricultural sector

Balakrishnan Solaraju-Murali¹, Louis-Philippe Caron¹, Nube Gonzalez-Reviriego¹, Francisco J Doblas-Reyes¹ ².

  1. Barcelona Supercomputing Center (BSC), Barcelona, Spain.
  2. ICREA - Institució Catalana de Recerca i Estudis Avançats, Barcelona, Spain.


Decadal climate prediction, where climate models are initialized with the contemporaneous state of the Earth system and run for a decade into the future, represents a new source of near-term climate information to better inform decisions and policies across key climate-sensitive sectors. This paper illustrates the potential usefulness of such predictions for building a climate service for agricultural needs. In particular, we assess the forecast quality of multi-model climate predictions in estimating two user-relevant drought indices, Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI) and Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), at multi-annual timescales during European summer. We obtain high skill for predicting five-year average (forecast years 1–5) SPEI across Southern Europe, while for the same forecast period SPI exhibits high and significant skill over Scandinavia and its surrounding regions. In addition, an assessment of the added value of initialized decadal climate information with respect to standard uninitialized climate projections is presented. The model initialization improves the forecast skill over Central Europe, the Balkan region and Southern Scandinavia. Most of the increased skill found with initialization seems to be due to the climate forecast systems ability to improve the extended summer precipitation and potential evapotranspiration forecast, as well as their ability to adequately represent the observed effects of these climate variables on the drought indices.