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Spatiotemporal Characteristics of Drought Occurrences over Japan

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The drought climate of Japan from 1902 to 2009 was analyzed using an effective drought index (EDI). Drought regions were identified by hierarchical cluster analysis using drought characteristics (duration, severity, and onset and end dates) obtained from 50 observation stations. The results indicated that droughts could be divided into four groups (G1–G4) that reflected the local climate. The four groups were related to precipitation as follows. The summer rainy season affected groups G2–G4, in which droughts occurred mainly during spring and summer and were relieved before and after the rainy season. The G1 group was not affected by the summer rainy season and droughts were spread evenly throughout the year; it even had cases of droughts relieved by winter snow. All groups included dry conditions over the 108-yr period, and the driest conditions occurred in the late twentieth century. The statistical analysis of drought data showed that a total of 23 country-wide droughts occurred and that the most extreme droughts occurred in 1939–41 and 1984–85, with an EDI of −1.55. In addition, four dry seasons (1939–45, 1997–98, 1994–97, and 2005–09) were found using regime shift analysis. Regional droughts occurred 54, 54, 49, and 59 times in groups G1–G4, respectively. On average, short-term droughts with a duration shorter than 6 months occurred 3.5 times per decade, whereas long-term droughts extending over 1 yr occurred 0.3 times per decade. The drought duration and intensity were used to calculate the statistical return period of country-wide droughts. The 1939–41 drought had the longest return period, at 104.7 yr. The 1987–88 and 1995–97 droughts had return periods of 65.9 and 65.5 yr, respectively.



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