Drought mitigation and prevention require a broader knowledge of the spatio-temporal characteristics and return periods of droughts over several years. In this research, drought characteristics (severity, duration, frequency and areal extent) have been analysed in northern Algeria by using the Standardized Precipitation Index to identify drought events from 194 precipitation stations. For frequency analysis, three Archimedean copula families were used to find a relationship between drought duration and severity. The severity–duration–frequency (SDF) and the severity–area–frequency (SAF) curves were obtained. The SDF and SAF curves are then used to build three-dimensional surfaces of drought severity, drought duration and cumulated percentage of the affected area (SDA) for each return period. It has been shown that the return periods of maximum drought events severity vary according to their durations. To address the issue of long-term droughts, a new classification of dry events based on drought severities is proposed. The obtained results show that the western part of Algeria is the most sensitive to severe/extreme droughts of short durations and high probabilities of exceedance. For long-term durations, the study area was sensitive to mild droughts with lower probabilities.