Long-term drought variability and trends in Barcelona (1787-2014)


  • J. R. Coll Universitat Rovira i Virgili
  • E. Aguilar Universitat Rovira i Virgili
  • M. Prohom Servei Meteorològic de Catalunya
  • J. Sigro Universitat Rovira i Virgili




Drought, Barcelona, SPI, SPEI, climate change


Long-term drought variability and trends were assessed in Barcelona at annual and seasonal scale for the period 1787-2014 and sub-periods 1851-2014, 1901-2014 and 1951-2014 to identify changes in drought patterns across time. High quality and adjusted monthly temperature and precipitation series were required for this purpose. The Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI), based on precipitation, and the Standardized Precipitation Evapotranspiration Index (SPEI), based on the difference between precipitation and reference evapotranspiration (ET0), were calculated to describe temporal drought fluctuations. Therefore, major droughts and wet events were identified and an accurate analysis of drought severity, magnitude and duration were also carried out.

Both drought indices provided similar results related to drought variability and trends in Barcelona across time, although the SPEI showed larger drought severity than SPI especially during the second half of the 20th century. Trends analysis revealed a significant drying trend at annual scale according to the SPEI since mid-19th century while the SPI did not show changes in drought patterns. At seasonal scale, both the SPI and SPEI found a clear drying trend only for summer (JJA) during the current period (1951-2014), although the SPEI was indicating the trend towards drier conditions for the whole period (1787-2014). Drought severity in SPEI series increased 13% during the second half of the 20th century compared with the whole period under study while drought magnitude and duration did not present significant changes in both the SPI and SPEI series. The increasing atmospheric evaporative demand associated to the large temperature rising experienced in Barcelona during the last decades could have played a substantial role in explaining the increase of drought severity and trends found in the SPEI series.


Download data is not yet available.


Aguilar, E., Auer, I., Brunet, M., Peterson, T.C., Wieringa, J. 2003. Guidelines on climate metadata and homogenization. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva, 51 pp.

Aguilar, E., Prohom, M. 2010. ExtraQC Quality Control Software. Available at: http://www.c3.urv.cat/data.html

Alexandersson, H., and Moberg, A. 1997. Homogenisation of Swedish temperature data, Part I: Homogeneity test for linear trends, International Journal of Climatology 17, 25-34

Anet, J.G., Muthers, S., Rozanov, E.V., Raible, C.C., Stenke, A., Shapiro, A.I., Brönnimann, S., Arfeuille, F., Brugnara, Y., Beer, J., Steinhilber, F., Schmutz, W., Peter, T. 2014. Impact of solar versus volcanic activity variations on tropospheric temperatures and precipitation during the Dalton Minimum. Climate of the Past 10 (3), 921–938. Doi: 10.5194/cp-10-921-2014

Beguería, S., Vicente-Serrano, S.M., Reig, F., Latorre, B. 2014. Standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index (SPEI) revisited: parameter fitting, evapotranspiration models, tools, datasets and drought monitoring. International Journal of Climatology 34, 3001-3023 doi: 10.1002/joc.3887

Bladé, I., Cacho, I., Castro-Díez, Y., Gomis, D., González-Sampériz, P., Míguez-Macho, G., Pérez Fiz, F., Rodríguez-Fonseca, B., Rodríguez-Puebla, C., Sánchez, E., Sotillo Marcos, G., Valero-Garcés, B., Vargas-Yáñez, M. 2010. Informe CLIVAR. Clima en España: Pasado, presente y futuro. In: F. Pérez, R. Boscolo (eds.), http://www.aeclim.org/images/stories/articulos_pdf/informe_clivar_2010.pdf

Brunet, M., Asin, J., Sigró, J., Bañón, M., García, F., Aguilar, E., Palenzuela, J.E., Peterson, T.C., Jones, P. 2011. The minimisation of the screen bias from ancient Western Mediterranean air temperatura records: an exploratory statistical analysis. International Journal of Climatology 31, 1879-1895. Doi: 10.1002/joc.2192

Brunet, M., Saladié, O., Jones, P.D., Sigró, J., Aguilar, E., Moberg, A., Walther, A., Lister, D., López, D., Almarza, D. 2006. The development of a new daily adjusted temperature dataset for Spain (1850–2003), International Journal of Climatology 26,1777-1802

Coll, J.R., Jones, P.D., Aguilar, E. 2015. Expected changes in mean seasonal precipitation and temperature across the Iberian Peninsula for the 21st century. Idójárás 119 (1), 1-22.

Coll, J.R. 2014. Drought variability and change across the Iberian Peninsula. PhD dissertation, Rovira i Virgili University www.tdx.cat/bitstream/handle/10803/145065/Coll2013_PhDthesis.pdf

Dai, A. 2012. Increasing drought under global warming in observations and models. Nature Climate Change. DOI: 10.1038/NCLIMATE1633

Dai, A. 2011. Drought under global warming: A review. Climate Change 2, 45-65. Doi:10.1002/wcc.81

De Luís, M., González-Hidalgo, J.C., Longares, L.A., Stepánek, P. 2009. Seasonal precipitation trends in the Mediterranean Iberian Peninsula in second half of 20th century. International Journal of Climatology 29, 1312–1323.

Domínguez-Castro, F., Ribera, P., García-Herrera, R., Vaquero, J.M., Barriendos, M., Cuadrat, J.M., Moreno, J.M. 2012. Assessing extreme droughts in Spain during 1750–1850 from rogation ceremonies. Climate of the Past 8 (2), 705–722. Doi: 10.5194/cp-8-705-2012.

Gallego, M.C., Trigo, R.M., Vaquero, J.M., Brunet, M., García, J.A., Sigró, J., Valente, M.A. 2011. Trends in frequency indices of daily precipitation over the Iberian Peninsula during the last century. Journal of Geophysical Research-Atmosphere. DOI: 10.1029/2010JD014255, 2011.

Hargreaves, G.L., Samani, Z.A. 1985. Reference cop evapotranspiration from temperature. Applied Engineering and Agriculture 1, 96-99.

Hartmann, D.L., Klein Tank, A.M.G., Rusticucci, M., Alexander, L.V., Brönnimann, S., Charabi, Y., Dentener, F.J., Dlugokencky, E.J., Easterling, D.R., Kaplan, A., Soden, B.J., Thorne, P.W., Wild, M., Zhai, P.M. 2013. Observations: Atmosphere and Surface. In: T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.), Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York.

Kallis, G. 2008. Droughts. Annual Review of Environmental Resources 33, 85-118

Kendall, M.G. 1970. Rank Correlation Methods (4th ed). Griffin and Co. Ltd.

Kirtman, B., Power, S.B., Adedoyin, J.A., Boer, G.J., Bojariu, R., Camilloni, I., Doblas-Reyes, F.J., Fiore, A.M., Kimoto, M., Meehl, G.A., Prather, M., Sarr,, A., Schär, C., Sutton, R., van Oldenborgh, G.J., Vecchi, G., Wang, H.J. 2013. Near-term Climate Change: Projections and Predictability. In: T.F. Stocker, D. Qin, G.K. Plattner, M. Tignor, S.K. Allen, J. Boschung, A. Nauels, Y. Xia, V. Bex and P.M. Midgley (eds.), Climate Change 2013: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fifth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York.

Lorenzo–Lacruz, J., Vicente-Serrano, S.M., López-Moreno, J.I., Morán-Tejeda, E., Zabalza, J. 2012. Recent trends in Iberian streamflows (1945-2005). Journal of Hydrology 414-415, 463-475.

March, H., Domènech, L., Saurí, D. 2013. Water conservation campaigns and citizen perceptions: the drought of 2007-2008 in the Metropolitan Area of Barcelona. Natural Hazards 65, 1951-1966. Doi: 10.1007/s11069-012-0456-2

Mestre, O., Domonkos, P., Picard, F., Auer, I., Robin, S., Lebarbier, E., Böhm, R., Aguilar, E., Guijarro, J., Vertachnik, G., Klancar, M., Gubuisson, B., Stepanek, P. 2013. HOMER: a homogenization software – methods and applications. Quarterly Journal of the Hungarian Meteorological Service 117, 47–67.

McKee, T.B.N., Doesken, J., Kleist, J. 1993. The relationship of drought frequency and duration to time scales. Eight Conference on applied climatology. Anaheim, CA, American Meteorological Society, pp. 179-184

Pastor, J.J. 2008. The drought of 2007-2008 in Catalonia. Unpublished report. Catalan Water Agency, Barcelona

Pauling, A., Luterbacher, J., Casty, C., Wanner, H. 2006. Five hundred years of gridded high-resolution precipitation reconstructions over Europe and the connection to large-scale circulation. Climate Dynamics 26, 387-405. Doi: 10.1007/s00382-005-0090-8

Prohom, M., Barriendos, M., Sanchez-Lorenzo, A.. 2015. Reconstruction and homogenization of the longest instrumental precipitation series in the Iberian Peninsula (Barcelona, 1786-2014). International Journal of Climatology. Doi: 10.1002/joc.4537

Prohom, M., Barriendos, M., Aguilar, E., Ripoll R. 2012. Recuperación y análisis de la series de temperatura diaria de Barcelona, 1780-2011. In Cambio Climático. Extremos e impactos, Spanish association of Climatology, Series A, Vol. 8, pp. 207-217.

Rodríguez-Puebla, C., Nieto, S. 2010. Trends of precipitation over Iberian Peninsula and the North Atlantic Oscillation under climate change conditions. International Journal of Climatology 30, 1807-181.

Salomon, S., Qin, D., Manning, M., Chen, Z., Marquis, M., Averyt, K.B., Tignor, M., Miler, H.L. (eds.) 2007. The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the International Panel on Climate Change Program. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge and New York, 996 pp.

Santos, J., Pulido-Calvo, I., Portela, M.. 2010. Spatial and temporal variability of droughts in Portugal. Water Resources Research. Doi: 10.1029/2009WR008071

Sheffield, J., Wood, E.F., Roderick, M.L. 2012. Little change in global drought over the past 60 years. Nature 491, 435-438. Doi:10.1038/nature11575

Sigró, J., Brunet, M., Domonkos, P., Aguilar, E., Gilabert, A., Lister, D., Luna, Y., Mestre, A., Jones, P.D. 2015. Long-term temperature change over mainland Spain: an update to 2014 and reassessment of the Spanish Daily Adjusted Temperature Series (SDATS). Proceeding of the CLIMATE-ES Workshop, Tortosa, Spain. Available at: http://www.climaes2015.urv.cat/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/CLIMA2015_2_Javier-Sigro-Rodriguez.pdf

Sousa, P., Trigo, R.M., Aizpurua, P., Nieto, R., Gimeno, L., Garcia-Herrera, R. 2011. Trends and extremes of drought indices throughout the 20th century in the Mediterranean, Natural Hazards and Earth System Science, 11, 33–51. Doi:10.5194/nhess-11-33-2011.

Thornthwaite, C.W. 1948. An approach toward a rational classification of climate. Geographical Review 38, 55-94.

Trenberth, K.E., Dai, A., van der Schrier, G., Jones, P.D., Barichivich, J., Briffa, K.R., Sheffield, J. 2014. Global warming and changes in drought. Nature Climate Change 4, 17-22. Doi: 10.1038/nclimate2067

Trenberth, K.E. 2007. Observations: Surface and Atmospheric Climate Change. In: S. Solomon, D. Qin, M. Manning, Z. Chen, M. Marquis, K.B. Averyt, M. Tignor, H.L. Miller (eds.), Climate Change 2007: The Physical Science Basis. Contribution of Working Group I to the Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, United Kingdom and New York.

van der Schrier, G., Barichivich, J., Jones, P.D., Briffa, K.R. 2013. A sc-PDSI-based global dataset of dry and wet spells for 1901-2009. Journal of Gephysical Research 118, 4025-4048. Doi:10.1002/jgrd.50355

van der Schrier, G., Jones, P.D., Briffa, K.R. 2011. The sensitivity of the PDSI to the Thorthwaite and Penman-Monteith parameterizations for potential evapotranspiration. Journal of Geophysical Research 116, D03106. Doi:10.1029/2010JD015001

Venema, V.K.C, Mestre, O., Aguilar, E., Auer, I., Guijarro, J.A., Domonkos, P., Vertacnik, G., Szentimrey, T., Stepanek, P., Zahradnicek, P., Viarre, J., Müller-Westermeier, G., Lakatos, M., Williams, C.N., Menn, M.J., Lindau, R., Rasol, D., Rustemeier, E., Kolokythas, K., Marinova, T., Andresen, L., Acquaotta, F., Fratianni, S., Cheval, S., Klancar, M., Brunetti, M., Gruber, C., Prohom Duran, M., Likso, T., Esteban, P., Brandsma, T. 2012. Benchmarking homogenization algorithms for monthly data. Climate of the Past 8, 89–115. Doi: 10.5194/cp-8-89-2012

Vicente–Serrano, S.M., López-Moreno, J.I., Beguería, S., Lorenzo-Lacruz, J., Sánchez-Lorenzo, A., García–Ruiz, J.M., Azorin-Molina, C., Revuelto, J., Trigo, R., Coelho, F., Espejo, F. 2014a. Evidence of increasing drought severity caused by temperature rise in southern Europe. Environmental Research Letters 9, 044001. Doi: 10.1088/1748-9326/9/4/044001

Vicente–Serrano, S.M., Chura, O., López-Moreno, J.I., Azorin-Molina, C., Sánchez-Lorenzo, A., Aguilar, E., Moran-Tejeda, E., Trujillo, F., Martínez, R., Nieto, J.J. 2014b. Spatial-temporal variability of droughts in Bolivia: 1955-2012. International Journal of Climatology. Doi: 10.1002/joc.4190

Vicente–Serrano, S.M., Beguería, S., López-Moreno, J.I. 2011. Comment on “Characteristics and trends in various forms of the Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI) during 1900-2008” by Aiguo Dai. Journal of Geophysical Research 116, D19112. Doi:10.1029/2011JD016410

Vicente–Serrano, S.M., Beguería, S., López-Moreno, J.I.. 2010a. A multi-scalar drought index sensitive to global warming: the standardized precipitation evapotranspiration index. Journal of Climate 23, 1696-1718. Doi:10.1175/2009JCLI2909.1

Wang, X.L., Swail, V.R. 2001. Changes of extreme wave height in Northern Hemisphere oceans and related atmospheric circulation regimes. Journal of Climate 14, 12-45.




How to Cite

Coll JR, Aguilar E, Prohom M, Sigro J. Long-term drought variability and trends in Barcelona (1787-2014). CIG [Internet]. 2016 Jun. 27 [cited 2024 May 24];42(1):29-48. Available from: https://publicaciones.unirioja.es/ojs/index.php/cig/article/view/2927