Environmental Earth Sciences

, 78:678 | Cite as

Characteristics and comparative analysis of the reconstructed drought/flood grade sequence of eastern Northwest China from 1470 to 1912

  • Shuoben BiEmail author
  • Ying Lu
  • Shengjie Bi
  • Yujun Qian
  • Li Sun
Original Article


The eastern Northwest Chinese drought/flood grade sequence was reconstructed according to historical data on drought and flood disasters for the period from 1470 to 1912. The changing characteristics of drought/flood disasters over 443 years in eastern Northwest China were analyzed by employing methods such as the moving average, accumulative anomaly, moving t test, and wavelet analysis. To verify the reliability of this sequence, long-term trends were analyzed and compared using precipitation sequences reconstructed for Huashan and the drought/flood index for Longxi. The drought/flood grade curve and stalagmite oxygen isotopic records of two provinces were also compared. The results show that: (1) drought disasters were severe and frequent in eastern Northwest China. An alternating pattern between drought and flood occurrences was observed, which can be divided into four stages: 1470–1540, 1541–1615, 1616–1796, and 1797–1912. We further classified the four stages into 12 partial drought or partial flood periods. (2) Twelve abrupt changes were observed on the decadal scale and five abrupt changes were detected on the half-century scale. (3) The reconstructed sequences display a periodic variability on multiple scales; notable variability was detected on the following timescales: 130–110 years, 70–80 years, 50–52 years, 28 years, 10–15 years, and 5 years. The first four primary periods were 28 years, 15 years, 73 years, and 5 years; 28 years shows the strongest oscillation. (4) Based on the comparison and analysis, the reconstructed drought/flood grade sequence is highly consistent with other precipitation sequences. It corresponds to stalagmite oxygen isotopes records of the same period. All these findings indirectly confirm the reliability of the recovered historical flood and drought grade sequence based on historical data.


Eastern Northwest China Drought/flood grade sequence Mutation test Wavelet analysis Comparative analysis 



This work was supported by the National Natural Science Foundation of China under Grant Nos. 41271410 and 41071253. The authors would like to thank the handling editor and anonymous reviewers for their careful review and helpful remarks.

Author contributions

Shuoben Bi and Yujun Qian conceived and designed the experiments; Yujun Qian and Ying Lu performed the experiments; Shuoben Bi, Yujun Qian, and Li Sun wrote the Chinese version of the manuscript; and Ying Lu and Shengjie Bi translated the paper.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they do not have any commercial or associative interests that represent conflicts of interest in connection with the paper they submitted.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.School of Geographical SciencesNanjing University of Information Science and TechnologyNanjingChina
  2. 2.Department of Computer ScienceDartmouth CollegeHanoverUSA

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