Online Drought Indicators and Indices

Self-Calibrated Palmer Drought Severity Index (sc-PDSI)


Index name: Self-Calibrated Palmer Drought Severity Index (sc-PDSI).

Ease of use: Yellow.

Origins: Initial work was conducted at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln by Wells et al. in the early 2000s.

Characteristics: Accounts for all the constants contained in the PDSI and includes a methodology in which the constants are calculated dynamically based upon the characteristics present at each station location. The self-calibrating nature of sc-PDSI is developed for each station and changes based upon the climate regime of the location. It has wet and dry scales.

Input parameters: Monthly temperature and precipitation. Information on the water-holding capacity of soils can be used, but defaults are also available. A serially complete record of temperature and precipitation data is required.

Applications: Can be applied to meteorological, agricultural and hydrological drought situations. With the results being tied directly to station location, extreme events are rare, as they are related directly to that station’s information and not a constant.

Strengths: With the calculations for sc-PDSI accounting for each individual location, the index reflects what is happening at each site and allows for more accurate comparisons between regions. Different time steps can be calculated.

Weaknesses: As the methodology is not significantly different from PDSI, it has the same issues in terms of time lag and frozen precipitation and frozen soils.

Resources: The code can be obtained from the National Drought Mitigation Center (NDMC). The National Center for Atmospheric Research (NCAR) has developed the CRU SC-PDSI (Self-Calibrating PDSI) over Europe & North America tool.

Reference: Wells, N., S. Goddard and M.J. Hayes, 2004: A self-calibrating Palmer Drought Severity Index. Journal of Climate, 17: 2335–2351. DOI: 10.1175/1520-0442(2004)017<2335:ASPDSI>2.0.CO;2.

  1. Ekpeni, Nkem
    August 18, 2020 Reply

    Thank you your contribution

  2. Ekpeni, Nkem
    July 16, 2020 Reply

    Pls, how do interprete, inter.vars, calib, coes after generating PHDI?Thanks

    1. Katrin Ehlert
      August 5, 2020 Reply

      Dear Nkem Ekpeni

      In order to provide you with more information, could you please be more specific on what these variable names stand for and which tool you used to generate the PHDI values?

      Best regards
      IDMP team

  3. Ekpeni, Nkem
    July 16, 2020 Reply

    Pls, what is the difference between PHDI AND WPLM from scPDSI. Thanks

    1. Katrin Ehlert
      July 24, 2020 Reply

      Dear Nkem Ekpeni

      The Palmer Hydrological Drought index (PHDI) is a modification of the PDSI to take into account longer-term dryness. You can find more information on it here:
      The Modified or Weighted Palmer Drought Severity Index (WPLM) is obtained from the sum of the wet and dry terms weighted by probability values. The WPLM has the same value as the PDSI during established dry or wet spells but can be different during transition periods.

      Best regards
      IDMP team

      Here is

  4. Ekpeni, Nkem
    June 28, 2020 Reply

    Pls, can you calculate scpdsi on excel

    1. Katrin Ehlert
      July 8, 2020 Reply

      Dear Nkem Ekpeni

      You can calculate the scPDSI using a special R software package: The statistical software R can be downloaded and installed free from charge.

      Best regards
      IDMP team

    March 20, 2019 Reply

    I want to compute self-calibrated Palmer drought severity index over Congo Basin (Central Africa). It is possible for me to have the parameters. How can I consider inputs file. Please I need your support

    1. Katrin Ehlert
      March 29, 2019 Reply

      Dear Steve Yvan Nono Noutchie

      Thank you for your comment. Below you find links to the research paper on the method development of the self-calibrated Palmer Drought Severity Index and to the source code for the method.

      Research paper: DOI: 10.1175/1520-0442(2004)017<2335:ASPDSI>2.0.CO;2
      Source code for sc-PDSI:

      Kind regards,
      IDMP Team

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