In this study extreme droughts and extremely wet periods in the Danube upper and middle basin (DUMB) have been highlighted with specific indices. The most widely used indices have been considered to estimate both the dry and wet phenomena severity and the frequency or spatio-temporal extension. The climatic condition of 15 meteorological stations situated in the Danube basin has been evaluated using four indices: Palmer Drought Severity Index (PDSI), Palmer Hydrological Drought Index (PHDI), Weighted PDSI (WPLM) and Palmer Z-index (ZIND). The four indices have been analysed separately for each of the four seasons between 1901 and 2000. First the internal structure of the time series of the four indices has been analysed separately. Then the overall temporal characteristic has been analysed by means of the principal component of the Multivariate Empirical Orthogonal Functions decomposition of the four indices (PC1-MEOF). For the discharge in the Danube lower basin, station Orsova has been chosen, representing an integrator of the discharges from the DUMB. A very close connection has been found between Palmer indices and Danube discharge in all seasons (with correlation coefficients greater then 0.80) excepting the spring season. A classification in five classes of both the four indices separately and the PC1-MEOF has been achieved in order to highlight extreme events. The impact of phenomena quantified by Palmer indices in DUMB upon discharges in Danube lower basin is evident. It was demonstrated in this study that the Greenland-Balkan Oscillation (GBO) influences the south-east European hydro-climatic regime more than the North Atlantic Oscillation (NAO) Index. Copyright © 2016 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.