Actual Precipitation Index (API) for Drought Classification

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Şen Z., Almazroui M.

Earth Systems and Environment, vol.5, no.1, pp.59-70, 2021 (Scopus) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 5 Issue: 1
  • Publication Date: 2021
  • Doi Number: 10.1007/s41748-021-00201-0
  • Journal Name: Earth Systems and Environment
  • Journal Indexes: Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.59-70
  • Keywords: Actual, Classification, Drought duration, Index, Precipitation, Probability, Standard, Statistics
  • Istanbul Medipol University Affiliated: Yes


The Standard Precipitation Index (SPI) is a widely used statistical technique for the characterization of droughts. It is based on a probabilistic standardization procedure, which converts a Gamma-type probability distribution function (PDF) into a normal (Gaussian) standard series with zero mean and unit standard deviation. Drought classification based on SPI indicates dry and wet spell characteristics, provided that the hydro-meteorological records abide by normal (Gaussian) PDF only, otherwise the results will be biased. Therefore, in this paper, the actual precipitation index (API) method is presented, which provides drought classification and information regardless of the underlying PDFs. The main purpose of this paper is to explain the main differences between SPI and API and to prove that the use of API is the more reliable solution for classification of droughts into five categories described as “Normal dry”, “Slightly dry”, “Medium dry”, “Very dry” and “Extremely dry”. The application of the methodology is presented for two sets of precipitation data; one with exponential PDF monthly precipitation records from Istanbul City, Turkey and one for New Jersey, USA with almost normal (Gaussian) PDF based on annual precipitation records. The comparisons indicate that API is applicable regardless of the underlying PDF of the hydro-meteorology data. It produces real drought classification from the original data without recourse to standard normal PDF conversion.