Droughts cause huge losses of society and environment, therefore it is important to study the spatial-temporal pattern of drought. The traditional remote sensing drought indices (AVI, VCI and TCI) only consider the single factor representing the soil moisture (surface temperature or NDVI). The comprehensive remote sensing drought indices (VSWI and TVDI) can estimate the soil moisture more accurately, but they are not suitable for large scale region especially with great elevation variation. In this study, a modified Temperature Vegetation Drought Index (mTVDI) was constructed based on the correction of elevation and dry edge. Compared with the traditional drought indices, mTVDI had a better relationship with soil moisture in all selected months (R = −0.376, −0.406, −0.459, and −0.265, p < 0.05). mTVDI was used to analyze the spatial-temporal patterns of drought in China from 1982 to 2010. The results showed that droughts appeared more frequently in Northwest China and the southwest of Tibet while drought centers of North and Southwest China appeared in Huanghuaihai Plain and Yunnan-Guizhou Plateau respectively. The frequency of drought was increasing as a whole while the frequency of severe drought increased significantly by 4.86% and slight drought increased slowly during 1982 to 2010. The results are useful for the understanding of drought and policy making of climate change.
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